Northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) are called red-shafted flickers in the West and yellow-shafted flickers in the East – two subspecies distinguished by the color flashed by their wings when they fly.
Leonard and I saw this red-shafted flicker tending its nest in an aspen grove along Guano Creek in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (Oregon).
Both sexes work together to excavate their nest, usually in a dead or distressed tree trunk. Aspens are favored because of heart rot that makes the excavation easy. Often red-shafted flickers will reuse their own nests in successive years or will employ the cavities of other species.
The nest cavity is bare except for a few wood chips that the eggs and chicks rest on. The 5 to 8 white eggs are incubated by both parents for 11 to 13 days. The nesting period lasts for 24 to 27 days. After about 17 days the nestlings cling to the wall of the nest cavity rather than lay on the bottom. Both parents feed the atricial (helpless at birth) by regurgitation.
We enjoyed sitting on a log next to babbling Guuano Creek watching the red-shafted flickers tend their nest.