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December 06, 2016
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Flicker fledglings

A trio of young eagerly awaits the next arrival of the “food express” run by their parents; there are likely more young not visible inside the cavity.

July 12, 2012

When a friend called me up and said he had a northern flicker nest in his backyard in late June, I packed my camera and binoculars in anticipation of some good looks. Northern flickers, as most woodpeckers, are cavity nesters, and the cavities are frequently low enough on the trunks of trees to afford some excellent views of young being fed by adults.

The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a member of the woodpecker family and is common in the region. Unlike most woodpeckers, northern flickers are mainly ground feeders, and feed on ants and other small insects, sometimes using their bill to dig for their prey. Flickers appear light brown with black scalloping and spots, a black breast mark and a red head mark that appears just above the nape. The eastern U.S. variant has yellow-shafted flight feathers that are visible in flight.

I was not disappointed when I observed this nest from an inconspicuous location; about 10 feet up in a dead maple (flickers prefer dead or diseased trees for nesting), the adults were constantly shuttling food to the young and at least three heads were visible at once. A typical clutch of northern flickers numbers five to eight. The ky-aa calls of begging young were frequently heard. Some of the young had well developed plumage and all that exposed a wing had developed flight feathers; their maiden flight out of the cavity would take place very soon.