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The Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a large bird measuring between 10-14 inches long. The back and wings are brown/tan and black-barred with a whitish or buffy breast with black spots and a wide black band across the breast.

Northern Flickers can be found throughout North America in parks, suburbs, farmlands, woodlands, and deserts. Their appearance differs depending on where they live. In the East the bird is know as the yellow-shafted since it has yellow under its wings.

In the West lives the red-shafted with its red underwings, undertail, and mustache.

Where the bird ranges overlap, different flickers sometimes interbreed, creating more varied characteristics.

Feeding Habits

Northern Flicker
Unlike many others in the Pilelea family,(Woodpeckers) who feed while clinging to the sides of trees, these birds feed on the ground looking for ants, which are 45% of its diet. Also known to catch insects in the air, this bird also eats fruit, berries, and seeds.

This bird readily comes to backyard bird feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds or by using suet feeders.

Mating Habits

Head bobbing accompanied by the birds "woikawoikawoika" call, is done by mated pairs as part of courtship. If done by members of the same sex, it's a dispute over territory or males competing for a mate.

Nesting Habits

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Bird House
This bird will use a properly constructed bird house for nesting. As a cavity nester the flicker will excavate a nest in a tree, post, or catus anywhere from 8-100 feet above ground.

The female will lay 7-9 white eggs that will be incubated by both male and female for about 11-12 days. The young birds will leave the nest in about 25-28 days after hatching.

Interesting Note

This bird eats more ants than any other North American bird. Its tongue extends almost three inches beyond its beak, which is ideally suited to this purpose.

Chances are, if you haven't seen a Northern Flicker, you haven't been looking.


This is a Yellow-Shafted Flicker eating suet. If you would like to attract these birds to your backyard just click the link below for some great ideas.

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By Gene Planker