For the Birds: Who’s that knocking on my chimney cap?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Intergrade flicker--Red-shafted malar stripe with yellow-shafted
red dot on back of head, Photo by Elaine Chuang
By Christine Southwick

Are your chimney caps and vent caps being attacked? They won’t really be hurt — it just sounds like it.

Male Flickers are starting to drum on telephone poles, and any other echoing surface, the louder the better.

Females judge the fitness of a potential mate by how loud he can drum. 

Telephone poles, trunks, and most branches don’t resonate too well, so the males go for metal surfaces. 

The good news is that males will stop using metal surfaces and return to wood and vocalizations, once a mate is acquired.

Red-shafted flicker father teaching youngster where to eat
Photo by Elaine Chuang
Flickers are unusual in the woodpecker family — they are often found on the ground eating their favorite foods - ants and beetles. 

You will still see them on tree trunks and limbs hunting for bugs, plus they nest and sleep in larger trees.

Flickers, the most common woodpecker in Washington, are considered a keystone or indicator species. 

Their presence is used to judge the health of a wooded area because their many nest-holes (usually abandoned after nesting) are used by small owls, wood ducks, bluebirds, swallows, wrens, and small mammals like the Douglas Squirrel. 

See additional information HERE 

Northern Flicker in tree by Elaine Chuang
Flickers create nest holes in dying trees, old telephone poles, fence posts and house siding (close-by nest boxes will help with the last issue). 

It usually takes up to fourteen days for the pair to excavate the 8-16-inch-deep hole for the 5-8 eggs. 

The flickers that are in our area are usually Red-Shafted Flickers, with salmon-red underside wing and tail feathers. 

The males have a red malar stripe. 

Flickers migrate a little southerly in the winter, and back to the northern part of their range in the spring. 

During the winter months yellow-shafted flickers will sometimes be seen here.

Red shafted -a beautiful bird
Photo by Elaine Chuang
We know that the ranges of these two subspecies overlap since we sometimes see Intergrade flickers. 

Intergrade flickers have a mixture of some red-shafted flicker markings, and some markings of yellow-shafted flickers (male yellow-shafted have black malar stripe, and all yellow-shafted have a red spot on the back of their heads which red-shafted do not). 

Sometimes these flickers have red-colored under-wing feathers, other times yellow-colored under-wing feathers.

If flickers drumming on your house and chimney vents are driving you crazy, don’t worry. The flickers will stop within a month. 

More info on how to get these protected flickers to stop pounding on your siding HERE.


Unknown April 11, 2019 at 11:31 PM  

I'm very interested in the information about setting flickers to stop creating holes in my siding. The link you provided in the last sentence appears to be broken. Can you send out a new link to this information? Thank you for a great article.

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