Join the Northern Flicker’s Drum Circle: A Birding Percussion Party


Have you ever heard the rhythmic drumming of a woodpecker and wondered about the fascinating bird behind the sound? Allow me to introduce you to the Northern Flicker, a charismatic woodpecker species that dances to its own beat. While it shares some similarities with its woodpecker relatives, the Northern Flicker has its unique quirks that set it apart.


Unlike other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker has a preference for searching for food on the ground rather than drilling into trees. Its delectable delicacy? Ants! With its long, barbed tongue, this resourceful bird excavates the earth, uncovering a feast of ants and using its tongue to slurp them up. Move aside, picnic ants, the Northern Flicker has the ultimate ant buffet experience.


At one point, the red-shafted and yellow-shafted Northern Flickers were believed to be distinct species. However, nature had other plans, and these two forms now freely interbreed across a vast range spanning from Alaska to Texas. The resulting hybrids showcase a delightful blend of traits from both forms, along with some unique features of their own. Additionally, the Red-shafted Flicker occasionally engages in amorous encounters with the dashing Gilded Flicker, creating a fusion of woodpecker charm.


One intriguing fact about the Northern Flicker is its migratory behavior. Unlike most of their woodpecker counterparts, these birds are highly migratory, with individuals from the northern regions venturing south for the winter months. But wait, there’s always an exception to the rule, as some brave souls opt to stay put in their chilly northern abodes. Who needs a tropical getaway when you can withstand the frosty embrace of winter?


When it comes to nesting, Northern Flickers typically opt for cozy tree holes as their homes. However, they occasionally break tradition and move into old earthen burrows previously occupied by Belted Kingfishers or Bank Swallows. Talk about expanding your real estate portfolio!


Now, let’s talk about their drumming skills. Similar to their woodpecker relatives, Northern Flickers employ drumming as a form of communication and territory defense. However, they take it to the next level, drumming on not just trees but also metal objects. In fact, there have been reports of Northern Flickers creating a percussive masterpiece on an old tractor in Wyoming. Their rhythmic beats were so powerful that they could be heard from half a mile away. Move over, rockstars, the Northern Flickers are in town!


As we delve deeper into the world of these charming woodpeckers, it’s fascinating to discover the longevity they can achieve. The oldest documented yellow-shafted Northern Flicker reached an impressive age of at least 9 years and 2 months, while its red-shafted counterpart enjoyed a remarkable lifespan of at least 8 years and 9 months. It seems these birds have unlocked the secret to graceful aging.


So, have you ever encountered the drumming prowess of a Northern Flicker? Share your tales of woodpecker encounters and let’s appreciate the beauty of nature’s rhythmic symphonies together!

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