Northern Flickers are probably the coolest species of birds that come regularly to my garden. I never get bored of them as they are beautiful and large enough not to blend in with the rest of the garden birds. My favourite part about northern flickers is their colouring. They may be boring brown and black, with the occasional red or yellow flash under the wing or tail, yet I still find them extremely beautiful. This is because of how well “defined” they appear. Instead of the black and brown fading into one another like on a dark-eyed junco or american robin, each individual spot on a northern flicker has a huge contrast to the background.
Another feature about the northern flicker that I adore is their apparent personalities. Being so big, flickers can scare all of the sparrows and juncos from the feeder. It may sound like bullying and I suppose in a way it is but the way they do it makes it seem like one of those picture books where the big awkward one just wants to make some friends but always ends up scaring everybody away. I love watching this story play out and am especially glad since we got at least one baby flicker n spring 2015! They never actually nested in our garden but there were three (when before there had been two) flickers in the neighbourhood for a while and near the end of spring, the mother would feed the chick (which was old enough to just look like a scruffy version of its mother) by our feeders.
As mentioned above, northern flickers are common visitors to my garden. This is partly because northern flickers are not very picky eaters. They actually come to my seed feeders (aimed at finches) rather often. Unfortunately though, they always seem to use the bottom two holes, making them appear very uncomfortable. I suppose this is because otherwise their tails would get in the way but it still makes me feel quite embarrassed when the feeders are practically empty.
The other and more reliable way to attract a flicker to your garden is by setting up a suet feeder. They are relatively cheap,very easy to set up, and all birds seem to love them. Unfortunately, squirrels do too but I have recently learnt that an easy way to solve that problem is by buying spicy suet. The birds do not seem to notice a difference yet the squirrels will never be seen again after their first bite! The only problem I have found with a suet feeder (which is not a real problem but it still makes me feel guilty) is that, like with the seed feeder, the flickers always appear to be hanging upside down and holding on for dear life. While I have not yet attempted to solve this problem myself, I did notice a that the local Wild Birds Unlimited store has a suet feeder with extra wood underneath designed especially for resting a woodpecker’s tail against. I have added it to my wishlist but am still getting both northern flickers and occasionally downy woodpeckers on my suet feeder without.
- Unlike most species of birds, northern flickers usually mate for life. In my opinion, this just adds to the personality of a flicker that I mentioned above. A flicker can recognize its mate by sight and the pair will often breed in the same place each year. I do not know where the flickers in my neighbourhood nest but I am sure it is always the same one or two that ever come to my garden as the only time that I ever had more than two when they had a chick (although I have not seen that chick since it “moved out” last spring).
- Something that always surprises me about northern flickers is that in certain places I go for walks in certain places such as a meadow near my house, there will be tons of flickers flying around and appearing to be having the times of their lives. You may be thinking “what’s wrong with some birds having a bit of fun every now and then” but the truth is that I have never heard of any other woodpeckers forming flocks and I cannot come up with a good explanation for why they would. If you do know why, please let me know in the comments as I cannot even find an explanation on google which supposedly knows everything!
- Flickers are part of the woodpecker family so like with any bird, it is fair enough if you are having trouble telling it apart from other members of the family. In a picture, a flicker is obviously different from a woodpecker and with most species, they are when close up in real life, too. For example, flickers are generally brown and black while almost all woodpeckers in Canada are black and white with a red patch on the male. The only type of woodpecker I know that actually looks like a flicker is the red-bellied woodpecker but they live in south-east North America and have never been so much as glimsed in British Columbia. The one problem I have found when telling a flicker apart from a woodpecker is when is high up in a tree. Woodpeckers never go on the ground but a flicker will sometimes land in a tree to build a nest or as a last resort of food. The final distinguishing feature between a woodpecker and a flicker is size. In my area we have the downy, hairy, and pileated woodpeckers, or small, medium, and large. A northern flicker is bigger than a hairy but smaller than a pileated. Hopefully it will not come down to size though as I hate doing this with any species of birds since it is only easy when you have both sizes sitting still next to each other, aka never.
This photograph of was taken on a tree in my garden by my mother.