This is going to be interesting! Every year a pair of American kestrels (Falco sparverius) raise a family in one of our haysheds. Over the last few days at least one northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) has developed an interest in the same nesting site. The flicker is going in and out of the hole into the shed and appears very proprietary. That makes us wonder what will happen when the kestrels return to claim their nesting site. I am pulling for the kestrels but a flicker family would not be disappointing.
The “red shafted” and the “yellow shafted” flickers were formerly considered separate species, the red-shafted a resident of the western states and the yellow-shafted found in the East. An extensive zone of hybridization occurs in the central states. The shafts of the flight feathers and underwing linings of one group are a salmon pink to reddish color while the same feathers in the other group are a bright yellow. I still commonly call the flickers in our area red-shafted. Old habits are hard to break!
Northern flickers are woodpeckers and can climb and hammer on trees in search of insects. However, flickers prefer to forage on the ground to collect ants and beetles which are their favorite food. I am always surprised when I find a flicker feeding on the ground because I have a stereotype of woodpeckers pounding on trees. In the winter berries, seeds and fruit round out the flicker’s diet. They usually nest in hollow trees.
The pictures were taken at Baum Lake (Lassen County CA) and Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge (Modoc County CA) . The flicker at the hole in the tree appears to also be checking out a potential nesting site. To me January seems early for all this nesting activity. In another picture the flicker was eating apples. I included a feather to show where the red-shafted flicker gets its name.