Birds Vol 1 #3 – The Flicker


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. March, 1897 No. 3




GREAT variety of names does this bird possess. It is commonly known as the Golden Winged Woodpecker, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Yellow Hammer, and less often as High-hole or High-holer, Wake-up, etc. In suitable localities throughout the United States and the southern parts of Canada, the Flicker is a very common bird, and few species are more generally known. “It is one of the most sociable of our Woodpeckers, and is apparently always on good terms with its neighbors. It usually arrives in April, occasionally even in March, the males preceding the females a few days, and as soon as the latter appear one can hear their voices in all directions.”

The Flicker is an ardent wooer. It is an exceedingly interesting and amusing sight to see a couple of males paying their addresses to a coy and coquettish female; the apparent shyness of the suitors as they sidle up to her and as quickly retreat again, the shy glances given as one peeps from behind a limb watching the other—playing bo-peep—seem very human, and “I have seen,” says an observer, “few more amusing performances than the courtship of a pair of these birds.” The defeated suitor takes his rejection quite philosophically, and retreats in a dignified manner, probably to make other trials elsewhere. Few birds deserve our good will more than the Flicker. He is exceedingly useful, destroying multitudes of grubs, larvæ, and worms. He loves berries and fruit but the damage he does to cultivated fruit is very trifling.

The Flicker begins to build its nest about two weeks after the bird arrives from the south. It prefers open country, interspersed with groves and orchards, to nest in. Any old stump, or partly decayed limb of a tree, along the banks of a creek, beside a country road, or in an old orchard, will answer the purpose. Soft wood trees seem to be preferred, however. In the prairie states it occasionally selects strange nesting sites. It has been known to chisel through the weather boarding of a dwelling house, barns, and other buildings, and to nest in the hollow space between this and the cross beams; its nests have also been found in gate posts, in church towers, and in burrows of Kingfishers and bank swallows, in perpendicular banks of streams. One of the most peculiar sites of his selection is described by William A. Bryant as follows: “On a small hill, a quarter of a mile distant from any home, stood a hay stack which had been placed there two years previously. The owner, during the winter of 1889-90, had cut the stack through the middle and hauled away one portion, leaving the other standing, with the end smoothly trimmed. The following spring I noticed a pair of flickers about the stack showing signs of wanting to make it a fixed habitation. One morning a few days later I was amused at the efforts of one of the pair. It was clinging to the perpendicular end of the stack and throwing out clipped hay at a rate to defy competition. This work continued for a week, and in that time the pair had excavated a cavity twenty inches in depth. They remained in the vicinity until autumn. During the winter the remainder of the stack was removed. They returned the following spring, and, after a brief sojourn, departed for parts unknown.”

From five to nine eggs are generally laid. They are glossy white in color, and when fresh appear as if enameled.

The young are able to leave the nest in about sixteen days; they crawl about on the limbs of the tree for a couple of days before they venture to fly, and return to the nest at night.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Red-shafted ©WikiC

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Red-shafted ©WikiC

Lee’s Addition:

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 KJV)

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized member of the woodpecker family. It is native to most of North America, parts of Central America, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and is one of the few woodpecker species that migrate. There are over 100 common names for the Northern Flicker. Among them are: Yellowhammer, clape, gaffer woodpecker, harry-wicket, heigh-ho, wake-up, walk-up, wick-up, yarrup, and gawker bird. Many of these names are attempts at imitating some of its calls.

The Northern Flicker is part of the genus Colaptes which encompasses 12 New-World woodpeckers. There are two living and one extinct subspecies of Colaptes auratus species. The existing sub-species were at one time considered separate species but they commonly interbreed where ranges overlap and are now considered one species by the American Ornithologists Union. Whether or not they are separate species is a well-known example of the species problem.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Yellow shafted ©WikiC

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Yellow shafted ©WikiC

The Yellow-shafted Flicker Colaptes auratus resides in eastern North America. They are yellow under the tail and underwings and have yellow shafts on their primaries. They have a grey cap, a beige face and a red bar at the nape of their neck. Males have a black moustache. Colaptes comes from the Greek verb colapt, to peck. Auratus is from the Latin root aurat, meaning “gold” or “golden” and refers to the bird’s underwing.

Under the name “Yellowhammer” it is the state bird of Alabama.

The Red-shafted Flicker Colaptes auratus cafer resides in western North America. They are red under the tail and underwings and have red shafts on their primaries. They have a beige cap and a grey face. Males have a red moustache.

According to the Audubon guide, “flickers are the only woodpeckers that frequently feed on the ground”, probing with their beak, also sometimes catching insects in flight. Although they eat fruits, berries, seeds and nuts, their primary food is insects. Ants alone can make up 45% of their diet. Other invertebrates eaten include flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and snails. Flickers also eat berries and seeds, especially in winter, including poison oak and ivy, dogwood, sumac, wild cherry and grape, bayberries, hackberries, and elderberries, and sunflower and thistle seeds. Flickers often go after ants underground (where the nutritious larvae live), hammering at the soil the way other woodpeckers drill into wood. Their tongues can dart out 2 inches beyond the end of the bill to snare prey. As well as eating ants, flickers have a behavior called anting, during which they use the acid from the ants to assist in preening, as it is useful in keeping them free of parasites.

Campo Flicker (Colaptes campestris) by Dario Sanches

Campo Flicker (Colaptes campestris) by Dario Sanches

The Northern Flicker is in the Picidae – Woodpeckers Family of the Piciformes Order. There are 6 Flickers; the Northern, Gilded, Fernandina’s, Chilean, Andean, and Campo Flicker. The other subgenus of the Colaptes (Chrysoptilus) includes the Black-necked, Spot-breasted, Green-barred, Golden-olive, Gray-crowned, Bronze-winged, and the Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers. The whole Woodpecker family has 231 species.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 March 1897 No 3 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Bobolink

Previous Article – The Japan Pheasant

ABC’s of the Gospel


Birds of the World – Woodpeckers

Flicker – Wikipedia

Woodpecker – Wikipedia


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