The Northern Flicker is a woodpecker that can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood, but it prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main source of food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to search for them. Using its long barbed tongue, the flicker laps up the ants. However, the Northern Flicker has a unique characteristic among North American woodpeckers as it is migratory and moves south for the winter. Although some individuals often stay rather far north, a majority of them move southward for the winter season.
The Northern Flicker has two forms, the red-shafted and yellow-shafted, which were formerly considered different species. The two forms hybridize extensively in a wide zone from Alaska to the panhandle of Texas. In fact, a hybrid Northern Flicker often has some traits from each of the two forms and some traits that are intermediate between them. The Red-shafted Flicker also hybridizes with the Gilded Flicker, but less frequently.
Northern Flickers generally nest in holes in trees like other woodpeckers. Occasionally, theyâ€™ve been found nesting in old, earthen burrows vacated by Belted Kingfishers or Bank Swallows. Moreover, like most woodpeckers, Northern Flickers drum on objects as a form of communication and territory defense. In such cases, the object is to make as loud a noise as possible, and thatâ€™s why woodpeckers someᴛι̇ɱes drum on metal objects. In Wyoming, one Northern Flicker could be heard drumming on an abandoned tractor from a half-mile away.
Interestingly, the oldest known yellow-shafted form of the Northern Flicker was a male and was at least 9 years and 2 months old when he was found in Florida. The oldest red-shafted form of Northern Flicker lived to be at least 8 years and 9 months old.