Shots from the Pond — Northern Flickers

October 17, 2013

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the pond lately, mostly watching for deer but also for mink, coyotes, ducks, hawks and songbirds. I’m always hoping for bobcats, as well, but I’ve never seen one at the little watering hole—yet. I like to photograph from the far side of the pond because I can see the surrounding fields all the way back to the house. If the deer and turkey action is slow, I just turn my attention to possibilities at water’s edge, including a great variety of birds and small mammals. If nothing is happening at water’s edge, I just look up at our cedar house on the hill over the prairie and think about how cool it is to live there. Life is good!


This time of year, I see a lot of flickers around the pond and a few days ago I managed to get decent shots of both the male and female. It’s easy to tell the sexes apart as the male has a mustache with a cute little trailing crescent. The flickers in this post are of the yellow-shafted variety, as you can see under the tail in the third image. If they were red-shafted, the yellow surfaces would be replaced by red and best of all, the male’s mustache would be red instead of black.


The northern flicker is my second favorite woodpecker, behind the pileated of course. It is rather large, around 12″, and has striking markings including its most distinctive attribute—polka dots! The flicker also sports a black bib, a ladder back and a red crescent on the back of its neck. Another beautiful feature is the pink coloration of the neck and face—wow!

Watch the northern flicker as it flies away from you and you will be treated to a look at its cotton tail. Be careful though, as the Cooper’s hawk can fool you for a moment with its similar appearance as it flies away from your location.

Northern flickers are almost as noisy as kingfishers so I know when they are nearby as they make a hiccup-like sound, kind of squeaky, that is usually described as “wicka, wicka, wicka,” or “flicka, flicka.” I always have trouble connecting words used to describe bird sounds with what I actually hear from a bird, but I suppose “wicka” is close to what I’m hearing from my polka-dotted friends.

Watch for flickers just about anywhere in Missouri as they forage for ants and other insects on the ground while the other self-respecting woodpeckers drum around in the trees as woodpeckers are supposed to do. I bet you’ll find them as fun to observe as I have and you’ll be dazzled by their circus costumes.

Thanks for looking!

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6 comments on “Shots from the Pond — Northern Flickers”

  1. Enjoyed that very much, and now I’ve learnt how to tell the male from the female. Thank you!

  2. this is an incredible photo, love the detail of the spots on this bird

  3. “Wow”, what a beautiful Bird. I never even heard of of Northern Flicker, let alone seen one. Great shot, thanks for sharing.


    • You’ve probably seen them but didn’t realize it. Happens to me all the time with other species. Take care Art.

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