Saturday, April 20, 2013

Northern Flicker Nest Hole Excavation

Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus

The camera sequences below show a Northern Flicker excavating a new nest hole. I heard the flicker while I was hiking along the Elbow April 19, 2013.  

Flicker nests are usually about 8 to 25 feet above the ground in a tree. This dead tree was about 20 to 25  feet high and the top was broken off in a jagged fashion. Several years ago a very high velocity storm brought down many of the trees in this forest, and likely the top of this dead Aspen was snapped off. The flicker was excavating a nest hole about two feet down from the top.  
Excavation is by both sexes. In this case, a male is working the hole. The red malar mustache confirms the gender.  
The diameter of the entrance is usually 2 to 4 inches and the depth of the cavity is about 7 to 18 inches. The width is up to 7 or 8 inches and this flicker has chosen an appropriate tree with a diameter of about 10 to 12 inches, which will leave at least 2 to 4 inches of insulation.  
Excavation will take 15 to 25 days, so I will get to know this bird fairly well. 
There will be one brood and 6 to 8 eggs are usual. The eggs are laid daily and incubated by both the male and female. The male has the night shift. Incubation lasts for 11 to 13 days. The young are tended by both parents and fed by regurgitation. Eyes open at 10 days. The young are brooded by the male for the first 3 weeks and by the end of that time they are feeding at the entrance to the nest. They leave the nest a week or two later. 
Based on the data above, which is from Baicich et al, if the birds takes two more weeks to excavate, then one week to lay 7 eggs, and two weeks to incubate, I should see feeding at the nest hole in 8 weeks.  


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

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