The Northern Flicker (Twitter handle: @northernflick) is the second bird that will be featured this week so that my readers may make an informed choice when they vote in the 2014/2015 Vancouver City Bird contest between now and May 10.
Flickers (colaptes in Latin) are an interesting subgenus of the Picidae family (which includes most notably several the woodpecker) for many reasons, one of which is that they not only peck on wood, but also routinely eat on forest floors, grass (as can be seen in the photo below) and even sidewalks or the wood panels of houses! What are they finding there? Well, in many cases, they are looking for insects like ants and termites. So if one or more of these birds seem to be feasting on something in your walls, you might have a serious problem on your hands. It should be said, however, that the males also use wood, metal or vinyl sidings and chimney covers to drum like mad. Why? To establish their territories and attract females, of course!
Now how do they use their tails to climb on trees and how can they withstand all that pecking? Well, if I may create a bit of suspense, I will get to the answer in a few days, when I speak about this gentleman’s much bigger cousin, the Pileated Woodpecker.
For now, I will mention one interesting fact: Out west, we have what is now known as the “red-shafted” Northern Flicker, as opposed to its “yellow-shafted” counterpart, which lives in the eastern half of North America. Until the late 1950’s, however, these two varieties were in fact considered separate species, until it became apparent that the resulting “hybrids” are in fact able to breed normally over their lifetimes.
But don’t let this loss of species status get you down: The “red-shafted” Northern Flickers residing all year in Vancouver are quite striking and colourful. Their bright orange (almost electric pink) underwings are quite a sight. In fact, whenever I see one of their feathers on the ground, I find it hard to believe that it hadn’t been artificially coloured!