How Northern Flickers Build Their Nest

A happy couple of Red-shafted Northern Flickers took just a week to create this impressive nest.

Flicker pairI was away in Gillette, Wyo., giving the keynote presentation at the Native Plants Speaker’s Series when I called home to check in.

John brought me up-to-date on what was happening at the homestead and before ending the call he said, “I have something to show you in the backyard when you get home.”

My imagination was set in motion, but I wasn’t prepared for what was about to unfold.

A pair of Red-shafted Northern Flickers was preparing a nest in our neighbor’s old cottonwood tree.

It was our incredible good fortune this happy couple decided to build the nest within direct eyesight of our office window.

Over the course of a week, we watched the pair share the construction duty. Each took turns pecking at the tree with long, curved bills and discarding the wood chips on the ground below.

While one worked the other was always nearby, ready to alert the mate to potential danger.

John captured every stage of their effort with still and video photography.

Their nest-building behavior is the best bird watching possible. I’ve worked to plant and grow a habitat in the backyard that would attract birds and other watchable wildlife. Now I feel like I’ve succeeded.

Flickers are some of the most colorful birds that visit my little habitat. The male has wonderful spots and sports a beautiful red moustache. I love to catch a glimpse of their white underpants as they take flight.

These birds are related to woodpeckers and they share similar characteristics like a long bill, the way they walk up and down the tree trunk and how they like to drum on the roofs of houses to communicate.

Flickers are a familiar sight walking through the backyard and stopping to peck for insects. But this is the first time to we’ll get to see the entire cycle, from nest building to the first peep of chicks, to seeing them peek out of the nest hole. Hopefully we’ll be watching when they take flight and leave the nest.

Flicker buttWe look forward to seeing it all and capturing as much of it as possible. Please check back over the next month to see what happens next.


 

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