Saturday, October 13, 2012

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers

Flickers may have red (Western distribution) or yellow (Eastern distribution) feathers, but both groups are present in Alberta and these groups interbreed regularly such that I see intermediate orange-coloured feathers on a regular basis. 

These birds feed on the ground or in trees for insects. They like to peck away at ants. They do not excavate trees as much as other woodpeckers and their bills are slightly curved. This shape allows them to probe and explore crevices.  
I hardly ever see two flickers together, so when I spotted these two in my back yard, I knew something was up. This was confirmed when the birds allowed me to photograph them for about 5 minutes from my deck. Most flickers are very skittish and fly off as soon as I open a door to the backyard. Clearly these birds were preoccupied with something compelling enough to ignore me. 

A territorial display played out for over five minutes. The birds squared off with bills in the air and fenced back and forth around bushes. Each bird tried to stand its ground and until the end, neither bird turned away. When one bird was more assertive the other hopped back. This back and forth action happened over uneven terrain and between bushes. Finally one bird gave up, turned away, hopped several meters to a clearing, then seemed to nonchalantly browse for insects for a few minutes, but after satisfying what looked like some "loser's pride," the beaten bird skulked away.
The hole in the dead tree above is a Flicker nest that I spotted by the Elbow in early April. The hole was about 10 meters above ground. Breeding starts in March in Alberta.
A few days later, April 9th, 2013, I saw the flicker in the nest. 


The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta. 
Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 2007.

Baicich PJ, Harrison CJO. Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. Princeton UP. 2005

Fisher C, Acorn J. Birds of Alberta. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton. 1998

Sibley David A. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. Alfred A Knopf, Inc. New York. 2001.

Tudge Colin. The Bird. Crown Publishers. New York. 2008