Flickers may drum up trouble for homeowners

Scientific name: Colaptes aurantus

Characteristics: Medium-sized woodpecker, 12-14 inches long with a thick, slightly curved bill. The brown back has black barring and the buffy undersides have black spotting and a crescent-shaped black “necklace.” Adult head has a brown cap and nape, gray face, and males sport a red whisker patch. The reddish coloring under the tail and wings and white rump patch are best visible in flight.

Breeding: Excavates a nest hole in a dead tree, but will use a nest box. Lays 3-12 eggs. Both adults alternate incubating the eggs for 11-16 days until hatching.

Range and habitat: Occurs from Alaska to Newfoundland and south throughout the United States. Two distinct groups, the yellow-shafted flicker (east and far north) and red-shafted flicker (west) or hybrids or “intergrades” are considered one species: the northern flicker.

Food: Feeds on ants, insects, suet, berries, seeds and fruits. May forage in trees or on the ground.

Bird facts: A rapid “wicka, wicka, wicka” call and loud “kleeer” note may be given year-round. Flickers drum (rapid tapping) on snags, phone poles and stovepipes to defend territories or attract mates. Flickers may problematically drum or excavate a nest cavity in wood siding; “flicker-proofing” a home may involve some homeowner vigilance (read “Minimize Flicker Damage” at bend.wbu.com/content/show/51498).

Current viewing: Urban and juniper woodlands and parks throughout Central Oregon.

— Damian Fagan is a birder, writer and COCC Community Learning instructor. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America, eds. Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer.