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Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

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Anting: Avian Spa Treatment?

On a warm, sunny day, an American Robin flops on the ground, wings outstretched and tail splayed behind. The robin sits astride an anthill, and the ants are swarming over its body! This is called "anting," and probably has to do with transferring the ants' formic acid to the bird's body. This... read more »

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Baby Birds - Leave Them Alone

Just because a young bird appears to be alone – whether on the ground or squawking loudly from a bush or tree – doesn't necessarily mean it is sick or injured. In June, young birds, including this juvenile Northern Flicker, are leaving their nests. And most likely, a parent is near-by and will... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, rehabilitation

Paul Bannick - Owls and Woodpeckers

Photographer and naturalist Paul Bannick, whose photos appear frequently on this website, has spent a lot of time observing woodpeckers and owls, including this Great Horned Owl. Paul notes: "Woodpeckers are called 'keystone' species...a species which alters its habitat to the benefit of other... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, photography

Paul Bannick Watches Flickers Fledge

Photographer and naturalist Paul Bannick tells of a time in the forests of North Carolina, when he heard Northern Flicker parents urging their chicks to fledge. "There was a young, timid, brown head sticking out of that cavity. I could imagine this bird would be nervous about taking its first... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting, photography

Bird Feeders and Whaling Ships

In the opening lines of Moby Dick, the narrator, Ishmael, confesses to "a damp, drizzly November in my soul." One sure way to brighten November's damp and drizzly mood is to welcome birds into your yard with birdfeeders. Black-oil sunflower seed is especially popular. Hang suet in a wire cage to... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding

Winter Birds Love Suet

Birds at a suet feeder... What a burst of vitality on a chilly morning! What's the attraction? A cake of suet, suspended from a branch in a small wire feeder. Suet is beef fat, a high-energy food critical for birds' survival in the colder months. Suet is an especially strong magnet for birds ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding

Northern Flicker, Drummer

Springtime brings the sound of a woodpecker - maybe one like this Northern Flicker - drumming on a hollow surface. Members of the woodpecker percussion band announce their territory and attract mates, as they pound away on metal roofs or gutters. Drilling holes in tree trunks calls for some... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, sound

The Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a woodpecker, but one that hardly looks the part. Where most woodpeckers are a reliable mix of black, white, and bits of red, the Northern Flicker is buffy tan overall. The undersides of its wings and tail-feathers flash with coppery-red, giving the bird the nickname "Red... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Flicker Attack

In early spring, a male flicker may drum on a metal stovepipe or other resonant surface to attract a mate and proclaim his territory. This doesn't damage your house. If your flicker is drilling for food, you'd better check for carpenter ants or other insects! A flicker may also be excavating a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Why Birds' Feet Don't Freeze

Have you ever watched ducks walking around in freezing temperatures and wondered why their feet don't freeze? And how do birds, including this Northern Flicker, sit on metal perches with no problem? Birds' feet have a miraculous adaptation that keeps them from freezing. Rete mirabile — Latin for ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science

Flickers and Buffleheads

After a Northern Flicker carves out a nest cavity, chances are the birds will use the cavity for just one nesting season. But the cavity may have a prolonged career as a home for small owls, bluebirds, swallows, and other birds - including the Bufflehead. Buffleheads - like the family seen here -... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  nesting

Woodpeckers Love Ants

Woodpeckers - such as this Williamson's Sapsucker - eat far more ants than do most birds. Although many other vertebrates avoid ants because of their stings or the foul taste, the Northern Flicker is known to have ingested over five thousand ants in one sitting! A woodpecker's sticky tongue can... read more »

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Woodpeckers as Keystone Species

Woodpeckers - including this Northern Flicker - are master carpenters of the bird world. They're called "keystone species" for their crucial role in creating habitat suited to other woodland wildlife. Abandoned woodpecker nest-holes become nests or roosts for small owls, cavity-nesting ducks,... read more »

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The Flicker's White Rump

When a Northern Flicker takes flight, a bold patch of white feathers flashes on its rump, in contrast to its brown body. This white rump likely evolved as an anti-predator adaptation. A hawk flying in pursuit of a flicker may focus on the white spot rather than the darker image of the whole bird.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage
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