My house is under attack by Northern Flickers right now, and maybe yours is too. That's why I decided to republish this informative post. Last year, they left me alone. But this year, because of my own need to recall the advice my previous research offered to others, I thought I would share it again.
Here it is:
A sudden loud noise like a jackhammer on metal startled and alarmed me. I was home alone in a new neighborhood. The noise would stop and start again without warning, and I had no idea what caused it. Then, after hearing the call of a male Northern Flicker, I went outside and caught him in the act of drumming on a vent pipe, pounding his beak on the metal with the rapidity of a machine gun. This was my introduction to life with flickers.
|This photo of a FEMALE Northern Flicker was taken by Gary Mueller of Missouri, taken during the 2011 GBBC and provided by Cornell Lab of Ornithology|
Have you experienced the same thing? Drumming often occurs in the early hours of the morning and is loud enough to awaken even a sound sleeper. After reading my previous blog post about the Great Backyard Bird Count, someone left a comment expressing the frustration many people feel when living with these often misunderstood birds. This inspired me to do some research so I could share helpful information with my readers.
There is no question that flickers drum on wood to reach food or create a nest cavity. And scientists believe this behavior also serves to attract or communicate with mates and to establish territories. Or maybe they just like the noise. My husband pointed out that in our neighborhood, he has noticed that they seem attracted to horizontal trim boards on houses, convenient places to perch if they want to drum on exterior walls. Both sexes drum, and with their mating season beginning in mid-March and lasting into June, we will soon hear more performances by these little percussionists. In addition to vent pipes, they love metal gutters, chimney caps, dead trees, buildings, stop signs, and anything else that resonates and amplifies their efforts.
The sound might irritate you, but that is minor compared to the actual physical damage these members of the woodpecker family can cause to buildings. One homeowner in my Tacoma neighborhood ended up with a $5,000 repair bill after flickers pecked numerous holes in search of bugs to eat. But before you start thinking of these beautiful birds as nothing but pests, please consider their side. A little understanding and education might make you appreciate them more and be bothered by them less.
Flickers have the same right to live here as we do and much of their habitat has been destroyed by humans. As part of nature's perfect plan, they carry out an important role by eating insects, and the cavities they create in trees serve as homes for other creatures. You can benefit too. If you notice them pecking holes in your siding, be grateful. Their activity could be the first clue that you have an insect infestation in your house. Smart homeowners will take action quickly if this happens, to prevent serious damage by both insects and birds and to keep those holes from signaling the presence of food to even more flickers.
The flickers in my yard have never made holes in the house, maybe because we offer them plenty of suet, a small price to pay for the opportunity to enjoy their great beauty and interesting behaviors. They can easily be spotted all year 'round here in the Pacific Northwest and I see them daily. We have many feeders for many types of birds, and it's interesting to see what happens when they mingle. In the YouTube video above, filmed here in the Northwest, watch how this flicker lets the starlings know who is the boss.
I enjoy flickers, but I know people who seem to hate them. How well I remember the day I walked by a neighbor's house and found him running out with a plastic bag holding the prize he wanted to show me: a dead flicker he had shot with a BB gun. I did not share his glee. I hope this blog post will help end the hostilities. If you feel victimized by birds who are just doing what comes naturally, please follow the links shown below to access some informative articles, all courtesy of the wonderful "All About Birds" website and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Then, let's all try to get along.
"External Characteristics of Houses Prone to Woodpecker Damage"
"Can Woodpecker Deterrents Safeguard My House?"
"Assessement of Management Techniques to Reduce Woodpecker Damage to Homes"
Resources used for this post:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
All About Birds
"Birds of Seattle and Puget Sound" by Chris C Fisher This is the best bird book ever, for the Puget Sound region, worth buying just for the beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it.
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