Saturday, April 14, 2018

At songbird Prairie we carry a "flame" for the Northern Flicker
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One of our favorite birds, a familiar and fairly large (13 inches long) woodpecker, the northern flicker is a distinctively marked bird that unlike other woodpeckers is often seen foraging on the ground. The Eastern form of the flicker is known as the yellow-shafted flicker for it’s bright lemon-yellow underwing and tail color. The field marks are bright yellow wing flashes, white rump, spotted breast, and barred back. It is not easily confused with any other bird. In the east, both male and female have a red crescent on the back of of the head, but only the male shows a black “moustache” mark on the cheek. The flicker has several calls including a single note kleer, a short wickawickaseries, and a monotonous wickwickwickwick song. It also communicates by drumming on the resonating surface of a tree, pole, or even metal downspouts and chimney flues. The flicker is widespread across Northern America. We see them all spring, summer and fall here at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa, Valparaiso, Indiana. They are found everywhere wooded habitats exist though open woods and woodland edges are preferred. Songbird Prairie is a certified wildlife habitat. Flickers migrate southward in winter. Flickers feed on the ground where they specialize in eating ants. A flicker pokes its long bill into an anthill and uses it’s lone, sticky tongue to extract the ants. They also eat other insects, as well as fruits and seeds. At bird feeders, they will eat suet, peanuts, fruits, and sunflower bits.
Excavating a new nest cavity almost every year, flickers perform a much needed service for may other hole nesting birds from chickadee to ducks that use old flicker nests. Both the male and female excavate the nest cavity in a dead tree or branch. The female lays between 5 and 10 eggs both share the 11 day incubation period. Young flickers leave the nest after about 25 days. Flickers use nest boxes with an interior floor of 7 x 7 inches, and interior height of 16-24 inches and a 2 1/2 inch entry hole. Because excavation is a vital part of courtship, boxes packed full of wood chips are more attractive. Competition for cavities from European starlings is fierce and may be causing a decline in flickers. Offering suet, corn or peanuts and nest boxes in your wooded backyard is one way to attract flickers. Equally important is the presence of ground dwelling insects (leave those non threatening anthills alone) and dead trees or dead branches. A large dead tree branch placed vertically in your yard may entice a flicker to stop. As you walk the grounds of Songbird Prairie’s 6 acres, you will find may dead trees left to entice all species of woodpeckers.
Come to Northern Indiana to discover the Northern Flicker.

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