Boulder’s Birding Breakthrough: The Unusual Beakless Woodpecker
The Northern Flicker, a striking woodpecker species found in Colorado, is a captivating bird with its unique attributes and fascinating behavior. These birds can be observed throughout the state, offering birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts an exciting opportunity to appreciate their beauty and habits.
In Colorado, two subspecies of Northern Flickers can be found: the Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus) and the Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus cafer). The Yellow-shafted Flicker boasts a vibrant yellow underside of its wings and tail feathers, while the Red-shafted Flicker displays a vivid salmon-red hue in these areas. These distinctions make it particularly captivating to observe these birds in flight.
Northern Flickers are known for their distinctive habits, including their preference for feeding on the ground. These woodpeckers have a diverse diet that consists of ants, beetles, and other insects. They often forage by digging into the soil with their strong bills and long tongues, which are adapted for extracting their preferred prey. Additionally, they have a penchant for fruits and berries, which they incorporate into their diet, especially during the colder months.
Colorado’s diverse landscapes, including open woodlands, meadows, and urban areas, provide a suitable habitat for these birds. You can commonly spot them perched on trees or foraging for insects on the ground. During mating season, Northern Flickers become more vocal, with their distinctive “wick-a-wick-a-wick” call echoing through the Colorado landscapes.
These woodpeckers exhibit fascinating courtship behavior. Males engage in “flickering” displays to attract females, where they rhythmically bob their heads and spread their wings to reveal the vibrant shaft colors, depending on the subspecies. Once they find a mate, they often excavate nest cavities in dead trees or snags, where they raise their young.
The Northern Flicker’s presence adds a unique touch to Colorado’s avian diversity. Whether you’re exploring the foothills, meadows, or your own backyard, the chance to observe these remarkable woodpeckers, with their distinctive appearance and captivating behaviors, is a rewarding experience for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
photo credit: Lenny “Lensworth” Frieling