Northern Flicker groups

I've been seeing quite a few Northern Flickers foraging in grassy areas near woodlands over the last six months or so.  They're distinctive in flight (and easy to recognize) because of the white rump patch. I see them frequently driving into work, as two or three will fly off as I pull into my regular spot near the Geology Museum (and nearby Cherokee Garden). 

They forage in the nearby meadows, too, and I'll often see the white rump flashes there as well, as the flickers fly towards the riparian forest that bisects the Garden.

My education colleague noted this in a January post in What's Happening in the Garden, seeing them in roughly the same area.

Northern Flicker foraging in an old stump (June, 2010) in NC
Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout most of the U.S., foraging for ants and beetles, as well as other insects.

Since I've been parking in the same spot for many years, I've been puzzling a bit about seeing them this year quite frequently, but not in previous years. I've been paying attention to birds for some time now; and even though I'm not an expert, I'm reasonably observant when it comes to sightings and changes in the natural world.

So in thinking about this, I've been wondering a bit about what might be different.

First, birds move around a lot, and perhaps we have several family groups that have stayed in the meadow/woodland edges of the Garden.  That would be nice, as they're cavity nesters, and perhaps took advantage of some of the snags in the nearby woodland areas.

Secondly, I thought, maybe since we've stopped the fire ant treatment of the meadows with the long-lasting residual broad-spectrum pesticide that has been used for awhile, perhaps the native ant and beetle population has recovered?  Total speculation, of course.  Fire ants are not a good thing, and I appreciated why a long-lasting treatment might be chosen, but I also worried about the impact on native insects in the process (butterflies and bees, primarily), but clearly ants and beetles would also be affected by a broad-spectrum insecticide (eg. food for Northern Flickers!)  Personally, I wouldn't recommend a long-lasting pesticide of any sort.  Not a good idea.

I haven't kept up with the bluebird box monitoring in the meadows after the initial two years, but have seen bluebirds quite frequently over the last 5 years, so maybe insect abundance isn't really a factor.

Regardless, it's been fun to see the Northern Flickers in the meadows and woodland edges and learn more about them over the last few years.


  1. That looks like a bird I could actually identify - should one ever come to Heath.

  2. We have some Flickers, though I always see them flying away. I love watching the birds.


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