The Northern Flicker, despite its ability to climb trees and peck on wood like other woodpeckers, prefers to hunt for food on the ground. Its primary source of food is ants, which it digs up from the dirt using its long, barbed tongue to lap them up. Formerly, the red-shafted and yellow-shafted forms of the Northern Flicker were believed to be two different species, but they now extensively hybridize in a wide area ranging from Alaska to Texas. Hybrids often exhibit traits from both forms and some intermediate ones.
The Red-shafted Flicker also hybridizes with the Gilded Flicker but less frequently. Unlike most North American woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker is highly migratory, with individuals in the northern parts of their range moving south for the winter, although some stay farther north. Similar to other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers typically nest in tree holes, but they have occasionally been found nesting in old earthen burrows that were previously occupied by Belted Kingfishers or Bank Swallows.
Gilded Flicker, Arizona.
Similar to other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers use drumming as a way of communicating and defending their territory. They aim to create a loud noise, which is why they may even drum on metal objects. In Wyoming, a Northern Flicker was spotted drumming on an old tractor, and its sound was so powerful that it could be heard from a distance of half a mile.
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The Northern Flicker’s oldest documented yellow-shafted variant was a male specimen discovered in Florida and was at least 9 years and 2 months old. Meanwhile, the red-shafted variation’s oldest documented individual lived for at least 8 years and 9 months.
Northern Flickers: Red-shafted, Yellow-shafted, Whatever | Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus