I saw a pair as I pulled in the driveway this week. They were Northern Flickers. I could tell by the white patches on their rumps as they flew away. Flickers are easily the most beautiful birds that grace my yard. Their plumage is complex and spectacular with a black “necklace” above their speckled breast, a red spot on the nape of the neck and a black moustache. A special few times they have chosen some of my 50-plus year-old maple trees in which to build their nests.
Flickers are fairly large birds in the woodpecker family, not quite as big as a crow but larger than a blue jay. They like open land near woodlands, edges, parks and yards. They are insect eaters and are particularly fond of ants. Sometimes they will perch on the bark of a tree like other woodpeckers, but they spend more time on the ground, seeking out ants and beetles.
Flickers raise one brood per year but can have as many as eight chicks. They seek out holes in old trees, which are becoming increasingly harder to find as mature forests are timbered or burned and replaced with useless pines.
In Virginia, our flicker population swells in the winter as the birds to the north seek a warmer climate.
Flickers, by the way, have an interesting call, sounding sort of like “Wacka-wacka-wacka.”
Some have had success attracting nesting flickers with wooden boxes filled with sawdust. I might give that a try. They are far too beautiful to see only a few times during the year.