Northern Flicker

I’ve managed to get pictures of the Northern Flicker at Boomer Lake and then walking home one morning from the lake. There was a house up the street that use to have a somewhat dying tree near the street that the woodpeckers all loved to hangout on and either look for their midday snacks or get a view of the neighborhood.

Side view of a Northern Flicker at Boomer Lake

The Northern Flicker is a large woodpecker that appear brown overall, with a black band at their neck. Their chest is brown with black spots, bars, and crescents decorating it. While the flicker is found throughout the United States–there is a color difference between the eastern and western birds. One color difference is the color of the undersides of the wing and tail feathers. For the eastern birds the color is bright yellow, and for the western birds the color is red. In addition the eastern birds also have a red crescent on the back of the head surrounded by gray crown feathers.

Front view of a Northern Flicker at Boomer Lake

The feathers on the face are another distinguishing feature between the two regional birds–the eastern birds have a tan face, in addition to the males having a black mustache stripe; the western birds have a gray face, with the males having a red mustache stripe.

The flicker can be found throughout North America (with the yellow-shaft variety found from Texas eastward, and the red-shaft variety found to the west). For the flickers that breed up in Alaska or northern Canada, they will migrate south in the winter–otherwise they’re found year round in most parts of the lower forty-eight states. Since they can be found in the far north during the breeding season–they’re one of the few woodpeckers that are strongly migratory as well.

Range map of the Northern Flicker. Map(c) birds of the world

Northern flickers will nest in evacuated holes in trees like other woodpeckers, but have also been known to take over burrows that have been vacated by belted kingfishers or bank swallows.

In terms of where to spot them–they can be found in woodlands, along forest edges, open fields, as well as city parks and suburbs. In terms of forests–they’re not really all that picky and can be found within most forests.

You may even startle a flicker without meaning too–as they forage for their food on the ground. So if you see one on the ground, it isn’t injured, but looking for it’s next meal.

Northern Flicker on the ground looking for ants at Boomer Lake

Unlike other woodpeckers that go after insects on trees, flickers forage for their food on the ground, with ants being their main source of food. They will dig in the dirt (using their beaks on the ground as other do on tree bark), and then use their tongue to lap up the ants and larvae.

They will also go after flies, butterflies, and moths as well; in the winter they will also eat berries and seeds in addition to foraging for ants and beetles.

Photography goal would be getting a picture of one actually pecking through an ant hill for its meal, or getting a picture of one capturing a moth or butterfly in flight.