In Scope: Northern Flicker

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Northern Flickers - female (left) and male (right)...


And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. ~ Genesis 1:20

      'Wika-wika-wika-wika-wika' - The rapidly repeated call rings through our front yard as my cat jumps up to look out my window. I too head to the window, but before I can look outside I hear my Mom and sister calling to me to come look out our living room window. The calls ring out again, sounding more like 'squeak-a-squeak-a-squeak-a' - I can't place the sound but I know I've heard it before. As I look out our living room window, a flash of rusty-orangish-red catches my eye. My Mom says she saw something flutter up in the air near our porch. I spot a Northern Flicker sitting on one of the porch steps, and soon another hops into view.

     As I snap a few pictures, the pair engages in a courtship dance - bowing from side to side to each other with what seems to be the utmost display of chivalry.  Their graceful movements is only matched in beauty by the intricate detail of their plumage.  Soon, the pair flies away.... I can still see them for a brief minute as they land in one of our neighbor's backyard trees. Then they disappear from sight.

    Quietly, I make my way outside to see if the Flicker pair are visible. I find them displaying to one another once more, this time perched on the wooden slats of our hay hauler.  I try my best to get close enough for some good shots....Watching them through my lens I'm suddenly conscious of the movement of their feathers in the breeze, every small change in feather position extenuated to my eye because of the powerful telephoto lens.   The serenity of the scene is temporarily interrupted by another Flicker male challenging the male of this pair.  He dive bombs to the two flickers I've been watching but definitely loses the argument and flies away.  The Flicker's resume their dance and call to one another once more.  Eventually the pair notices me....desiring to leave them undisturbed and in peace, I slip away with gratefulness in my heart.   I'm in awe of the wonder of God's creation and thankful for Him letting us witness this beautiful moment between birds.

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Male and female Northern Flickers.... (female, left and male, right)

    I've mentioned before that I believe God sends birds here just when I need to see them most -  bringing joy not only to me, but also allowing me to share these moments with all of you.  I don't really know why He does that for me, but I'm so thankful for the opportunity to proclaim His greatness and share the wonder of His creation.  For that reason, this month's In Scope is all about the Northern Flicker!

Interesting Facts

    Did you know...






Feeding and Gardening For Northern Flickers


    Flickers have just a few preferences when it comes to feeder foods. Here's a list of some things I've seen our flickers eat at the feeding station:

Sunflower seeds

Peanut Butter

Suet (because of its high fat content its a great feeder food for insect eating flickers)

Mealworms (roasted or live)

Dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, dried cherries and the like.


    One of the Northern Flicker's favorite habitats is a wide open lawn where they can search for ants and beetles in abundance. They also enjoy trees and dead snags in which they can nest.  Flickers also like berry producing plants.  Here's a list of berry plants that may attract Northern Flickers.





Oregon Grape


Virginia Creeper

Zoom In: Species Profile

    The Northern Flicker is a large woodpecker bigger than a robin at about 12 inches long. Male and female of the species differ in appearance. All Northern Flickers are tan and brown in color with a distinct black bib across their chest. Their lighter tan to creamy-buff colored underside is spotted with black dots - they have a white spot on their rump just above the tail that is conspicuous in flight. Male Red-shafted Northern Flickers have red 'mustache' marking on their grayish brown face and reddish-orangey-brown color under their wings and tail. Female Red-shafted Northern Flickers also sport the same brilliant reddish-orange color under their wings and tail but lack the red facial markings. Male Yellow-shafted Flickers have yellow under their wings and tail, black mustache-like facial markings and red nape. The female Yellow-shafted looks identical to male with the exception of her lack of mustache markings.

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Here's a picture that shows the underside of the male Flicker as he flies above the female.... Notice his reddish-orange color.

    Gilded Flickers share the same markings under the wings and tail color as the Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers, but the males in this variety have red mustache markings like the Red-shafted Northern Flickers. All varieties cross with one another where their ranges meet - so its not unusual to see some combination of all of these characteristics. Interestingly enough, the male of the pair I described above had all the characteristics of the Red-shafted Northern Flicker, but he did have a some red markings on his nape, which is uncharacteristic of a Red-shafted Flicker. For that reason, I consider him a possible cross between a Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted Flicker. The female conformed to the description of the Red-shafted variety entirely.

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Northern Flickers - female (left) and male (right) - You can see his red nape markings in this image....

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Notice the red 'mustache' markings....If you look closely, you'll also see his wing has a bright yellow edge....

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Not the best photo I have of a Northern Flicker - but this one shows his red nape and yellow wing edges....

This is the same individual pictured directly above with red mustache markings.

    The Northern Flicker has a few distinct calls in its repertoire of sounds - one is a 'wika-wika-wika' as I mentioned, but they also may make a 'flicker' sound and a louder 'cleearrr' sound. Drumming, as described above is also another form of communication among individuals.

    The diet of the Northern Flicker is mostly ants and beetles, but they also eat flies, butterflies, moths and snails. Flickers also enjoy some fruit and seeds during the fall and winter season.

    The preferred habitats of Northern Flickers are wide open spaces with plenty of grass - with trees in abundance. Parks, backyards and gardens are also favorite Northern Flicker habitats.

    Northern Flickers are cavity nesters. For nesting, they will make use of cavities in trees, utility poles, birdhouses and cacti (where cacti are found). Sometimes flickers may also nest on the ground. They have been known to use abandoned burros which were the previous home of other bird species. The female lays 5 - 8 white eggs.

    The year round range of the Northern Flicker is across much of the United States. They can be found in the summer in Canada and parts of Alaska. Some Northern Flickers spent their winters in Texas and Southern California.


    This month I've created a Northern Flicker coloring page for you, available in a free PDF.  To download, simply click here! Then print and enjoy.


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Northern Flicker - male

    Northern Flickers are one of the most beautiful woodpeckers in our area. When I see their intricately colored and patterned plumage - I think of the Amazing Designer and Creator behind such a magnificent beauty of a bird. There's no doubt in my mind that I believe the Lord brought those Flickers to our yard just for me the other day. I believe He has a purpose in my sharing the love of His creation with all of you.

    The Bible says that God's creation tells us about Him. Science itself proves the existence of God with each discovery made and when yet another new species is identified. The Northern Flicker pair in my yard showed me the grace and beauty of our Creator and His amazing love for letting me enjoy Him in everything He's made. In Romans 1:20 NIV it says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

    I hope you've enjoyed this month's In Scope! Join me again next month for a closer look at another of God's amazing creatures, the birds.

    By, Jessi Wasell