Spotting a Northern Flicker can be truly spectacular. Vocal and conspicuous, flickers may be the most obvious woodpecker in the state of Massachusetts. They don’t visit bird feeders as frequently as their ubiquitous cousins, Downy Woodpeckers, but you may spot one in your backyard or at your birdbath, especially if your yard abuts a wooded area with a mix of trees and open ground. Unlike other woodpeckers, they often feed on the ground, even mixing together with flocks of ground-feeding songbirds, such as robins. Wherever you see one, this handsome bird certainly has unique plumage.
Their tan-brown bodies are patterned with black scalloping or spots, appearing almost polka dotted from a distance. In the East, the undersides of their wing and tail feathers are bright yellow (their Western counterparts have red flight feathers but you won’t see them around here). If you startle one from the ground, you may see a flash of white on its rump. They have a black bib across their breasts, a grey cap with a red nape, and the males sport black “mustache” markings beside their beaks.
These five photos of Northern Flickers were all submitted to our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest is open now, so submit your spectacular wildlife and nature photography before the deadline of September 30.
Female Northern Flicker © Cheryl Rose
Male Northern Flicker © Lee Millet
Male Northern Flickers © Ken & Judy Proulx
Male Northern Flicker © Paul Flanders
Female Northern Flicker © Gates Dupont
It’s always a treat to spot the iconic pileated woodpecker (unless, of course, you catch one drilling into the side of your house). With their striking black and white plumage and flaming red crests, they are almost prehistoric-looking, like a crow-sided modern pterodactyl.
Woodpeckers have several unique adaptations. Their feet have two toes pointing forward and two pointing rearward with sharp pointed claws that enable them to scale tree trunks and other vertical surfaces to look for food and shelter. Their straight pointed bills and reinforced skulls help them to absorb the constant shock of pecking, chiseling, drilling, and drumming as they hunt for insects (especially carpenter ants) to eat. Their stiff tail feathers act as props (like a third leg) when they climb.
It’s not an everyday occurrence to see a pileated woodpecker, so here are five photos of these remarkable birds from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest for you to enjoy. Submissions for the 2018 photo contest will open in early summer, so keep an eye out!
Pileated Woodpecker © Lee Millet
Pileated Woodpeckers © Jacob Mosser
Pileated Woodpecker © Kimberlee Bertolino
Pileated Woodpecker © Mary Jeanne Tash
Pileated Woodpecker © Davey Walters
Pileated Woodpecker © Dan Prima