BOM: Northern Flicker
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
How to identify: Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with handsome black-scalloped plumage that live year-round in Nevada. Their brown plumage is richly patterned with black spots, bars, and crescents. The red-shafted (western) and yellow-shafted (eastern) forms of Northern Flickers were once classified as different species. Red-shafted or yellow-shafted refers to the color of the undersides of wing and tail feathers. The two forms hybridize extensively in the area between their two ranges. It is not unusual at all to see a hybrid here, sometimes with yellow wing and tail feathers and the red mustache; or red-shafted with red nape crescent instead of red mustache.
Habitat: Look for flickers in open habitats near trees, including woodlands, edges, yards, and parks. In the West you can find them in mountain forests all the way up to treeline.
Where to find one:Flickers are very fond of ants, and it is quite common to find them on the ground, probing the dirt with their long, slightly curved bill to find this delicacy. In suburban or urban settings, flickers are likely to be found during the winter in backyards with mature trees.
Like most woodpeckers, Northern Flickers drum on objects as a form of communication and territory defense. The object is to make as loud a noise as possible, so metal poles and pipes are sometimes preferred targets for this drumming.
How to attract one to your yard: Northern Flickers don't habitually visit bird feeders, but you can find them in backyards and at bird baths. If your backyard has a mixture of trees and open ground, or if it's near woods, you may find Northern Flickers simply by walking around the wooded edges. Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young.
Interesting fact: Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.
For more information on Northern Flickers, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations: 1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks.
Carmel Ruiz-Hilton is Manager of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shops at Moana Nursery in Reno/Sparks