Northern Flicker, or Common Flicker, is a member of the woodpecker family.
It is a large bird, about 12" long, with black bars on its brown back, a
black bib, and a red or black "whisker" stripe on the side of its face
(male only). Eastern birds wear a red patch on the back of the neck
and have yellow wing linings, while the western variety have salmon wing
linings and no red patch. In the Southwest the gilded flicker has bright
flicker lives in open country with trees, farmlands, orchards, woodland
edges, or in parks and suburban areas. It also likes areas near
rivers and streams, as well as deserts with giant saguaro cacti. Its
call is a loud, repeated "flicker, flicker, flicker."
It is the
only woodpecker that generally feeds on the ground, searching for insects
such as ants (about half their diet) and beetles. They will also
feed on tree trunks. In the winter they may come to a feeder for
suet and peanut butter, and they will eat wild fruits and berries as
Woodpeckers excavate their own cavities, and some will use a
nesting box, while others will not. The North American woodpeckers who use
nest boxes fairly often include the Northern Flicker and the Red-headed
Woodpecker. Woodpeckers do not bring in nesting material to the birdhouse,
since they generally excavate holes in rotted wood, where the soft wood
makes good nesting material naturally. So placing wood chips or
sawdust (from 1" or 2" deep to filling it completely full) in the nest box
may help to attract them. Wood chips are superior, as sawdust can
flicker will migrate from northern areas to the southern states for
winter, but if the climate is not extreme, it may use a nest box as a
roosting place during the winter months.
In an area
where starlings are plentiful, you may want to set up several houses so
they can have their own and leave the flickers alone, as they are an
aggressive competitor for nesting sites.
One of the
best things you can do for any bird, but especially for woodpeckers, is to
NOT cut down the old dead trees or dead branches in your yard. These
provide insects and homes for many woodpeckers, and after they have moved
on to a new nest site, for every other cavity-nesting species.
Woodpeckers do not excavate live wood, so leave that old eyesore in your
yard and help give the birds a home!