It’s big, it’s loud, it’s common, and with its distinct spotted chest, it’s pretty obvious. The 2nd largest member of the woodpecker family, the Northern Flicker can be seen all over Kananaskis Country in every season.
They are a woodpecker, so do drill holes in tree cavities for nests and for food, plus strip bark off trees. But you will more often see them on the ground, foraging for ants. They love ants, which they pick up with their large sticky tongue. And they don’t just eat ants; they also squish them and preen themselves using dead ants. The formic acid in ants kills parasites that can live in their feathers. They also take dust baths in ant hills for the same reason.
They have a very distinct, loud call that can be heard from quite a distance. It’s a rapid wick-wick-wick-wick that’s repeated several times. It’s occasionally a territorial call, and occasionally a mating call, but they are generally a pretty vocal bird. They have a similar call to a Pileated Woodpecker. However, Flickers don’t drum on trees, so when you hear the call, listen for a drum.
Flickers do migrate and are much more common March to September. However, you can find flickers around K-Country every month of the year. Some overwinter in southern BC, so they don’t migrate far.
There are two sub-species of Northern Flicker. The first is a “Yellow Shafted” with a yellow throat, black moustache and yellow underwings. The other is a “Red Shafted”, with a red moustache, grey throat and pink underwings. The colours are more pronounced on the males. But… they interbreed. We have never caught a photo of a flicker that wasn’t a hybrid of some sort.
Meet more of the Critters of Kananaskis Country here!