2 Northern Flickers

This gallery contains 4 photos.  Northern Flickers are the second largest woodpeckers in North America, but I have had much better luck approaching the much smaller Downies than these. Flickers–both Intergrade and Red-Shafted (which occur here regularly)– like to keep a rather “discreet” 50-foot distance between themselves and the photographer. If they detect even the slightest movement on my part, they take off like a shot.

Northern FlickerThe Red-Shafted Northern Flicker male has a bright red malar (mustache).
f/8, 1/250, 150-500mm telephoto, 500mm, ISO 100

This male Red-Shafted, however, proved an exception to the rule, and decided he was best admired, not just high up in the tree … but on the ground as well … some 6.5 feet away! Photographed on April 15, 2015, in Boundary Bay Regional Park.

Northern FlickerI hadn’t seen that thick, powerful beak up close before (makes the Flicker quite the drummer).
f/8, 1/250, 15-500mm telephoto, 500mm, ISO 125

The tongue of a Northern Flicker is as long (extending 1.5-2 inches from the tip of its bill) and remarkable as a hummingbird’s. I read somewhere that, just like a hummingbird’s, the Flicker tongue is curled up inside the cranium when not in use! Photographed on April 15, 2015, in Boundary Bay Regional Park.

Northern FlickerThe end of its sticky tongue is used to impale ants, its main food source (it loves suet, too).
f/8, 1/250, 150-500mm telephoto, 500mm, ISO 200

They sound very much like Bald Eagles, fooling me the first time I heard them. It wasn’t until I both heard and saw one calling how good their mimicry was. This is a female Red-Shafted Northern Flicker. Even more extraordinary is her ‘do … which I am still unable to explain. Was she born that way, or did her feathers get caught in some branches? Photographed on March 26, 2015, in the backyard.

she doesn’t have a bright red mustache, but check out those feathers on the back of her head!
f/6.3, 1/1600, 150-500mm telephoto, 500mm, ISO 200 

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64 thoughts on “2 Northern Flickers

    • thank you, Merry Hearts! our backyard Northern Flickers are usually timid by comparison …. but if the female sees me refilling the suet feeder, I can get a few “flyover” reminders from her to speed up the process. quite hilarious. 🙂

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  1. I’ve been a fan of woodpeckers ever since my early youth looking at Disney cartoon animations and being fascinated with how the bird persists with the drumming onto something as hard as wood. It gave me headaches! LOL.
    PS: May I use one of the pix in this post for my blogroll to direct visitors here? Please.

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    • Northern Flickers are exceptionally skittish around humans — I can’t get within 40 feet of one without it flying away. this fellow was an extreme exception to the rule.

      as for the female, I tried doing a Google search for her interesting ‘do, but found nothing to indicate why her headfeathers looked the way they did. 🙂

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      • That is really quite far away, maybe if they came to your bird feeder you would have a better chance? I see people on twitter who attract them to their feeders and it seems that they can get fairly close to them then 🙂

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      • we do hang out a suet feeder (and the Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers do use it quite frequently), but lately, with the arrival of spring, both these woodpeckers have suddenly vanished from our backyard! along with the Red-Breasted Nuthatches and Chestnut-Backed Chickadees. it’s been really quiet lately, except for the Anna’s hummingbirds and a pair of nesting Black-Capped Chickadees. 😦

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      • I hope they come back later in the season, maybe they went away to raise their chicks and you’ll see the whole family coming back soon! 😉

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  2. If they’re so shy, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to photograph them with my 200mm lens!! Lucky that this one came closer, it’s always so exciting when they do that.

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    • you never know. 🙂 usually it’s the juveniles who will let you get close, but sometimes, curiosity will even motivate an adult to approach you. it’s a compliment of sorts, I suppose.

      I had a female Downy Woodpecker fly into the old apple tree in the backyard and check me out at extremely close distance once, and I had to back up to photograph her because she was too close. 🙂


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      • those fantails are so freaking cute!! the Rufous hummingbirds will do similar things … I had one swoop in, hover and feed from flowers just inches from my face last year. I backed up just a wee bit … feeling the backdraft of its wings on my face was an interesting experience! and the Pine Siskins like to use my 500mm lens as a branch (on three different occasions I have had one (or two) fly to and/or land on it). I should have a second camera set up to capture those moments!

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      • Wow cool, that’s a privilege of having a 500mm lens :p You should totally have a second camera for this, these kind of photos are great. I’ve seen many on twitter with inquisitive squirrels checking out the long lenses! Fantails are super cute indeed, my very favorite, they also kinda hoover tho they really have their own way of flying. I would love to see more hummingbirds, they seem great to observe, lucky you! Maybe when I go back to Canada next year, let’s see.


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