EDITOR’S NOTE: Our newest columnist Neil Ball shares photos and profiles of local birds that he’s seen and studied in our area.
By Neil Ball
In the early spring, you may be awakened to the loud banging of a woodpecker on your house. He could be “drilling” on the gutter, chimney cap, siding or anything that will make a lot of noise. If so, your house has been selected by a male Northern Flicker to announce their intentions to find a mate. For your sake, I hope he finds a mate soon, because he will not stop until he does.
Being a member of the woodpecker family, you would think that the Flicker would be pecking at old trees looking for something to eat. But the Flicker are more a ground feeder, where they search for their favorite food; ants. They use their barbed tongue, which they can extend two inches, to grab their prey. They are also fans of the European Chafer Beetle larvae and can be seen probing the ground to grab the fat white larvae.
The Northern Flicker has a couple of sub-species. On the west coast we have the red-shafted and on the east coast they have the yellow-shafted. The red or yellow shaft refers to the color of the shafts of their feathers. The red-shafted males also have a red malar (a patch of feathers just behind the beak) while the yellow-shafted have a red chevron on the nape of their neck. Recently, we have seen an influx of the hybrid, or intergrade Flickers that have a mix of the markings; yellow-shafts and red malar, red-shafts and the red chevon, of both the chevron and malar patches. The next time you see a Flicker, look to see just what kind of a mix it is.
Questions? E-mail me at [email protected].