Unlike other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker doesn’t peck away at trees in search of insects. This species drums to communicate and warn away rivals during the nesting season. If they can find a metal chimney that can really ring out their woodpecker drum roll of 25 beats per second, so much the better.
Often described by birders as handsome or striking in appearance, the Northern Flicker bears a brown plumage that is richly patterned with black spots, their chests accented with a black crescent shape. Males have a mustache that is either black or red, while the female's is brown. When in flight, watch for a bright white spot near the tail along with bright color in the underwings. (In the eastern half of the U.S. these feathers are yellow, while they are red out west.)
During the mating season, watch for Northern Flickers to compete in a face-off called a “fencing duel.” Facing one another, the rivals turn their bills upward and draw circles in the air while making a series of calls and bobbing their heads.
The Northern Flicker's territory spans across the continental United States, though many head south for the winter. Look for them in tree-filled areas with ample open ground where they can forage, such as forests, parks and neighborhoods. In fact, you may want to keep an eye on the ground because in the summer you are likely to find them hammering away at the earth in search of ant larvae. When the weather turns cold, though, they start searching for berries and fruit, occasionally turning to nuts and seeds.
To attract your neighborhood Northern Flicker, set out a large hopper or covered platform feeder. Lyric's Woodpecker Mix will draw them in, along with other woodpecker species, with the nutritious blend of dried fruit and nuts and seeds they love to eat such as pistachios, pumpkin seeds, shelled peanuts and pecans.