The Northern Flicker
Henry David Thoreau described the call of the flicker as a welcoming and rejuvenating sign of spring; in April at Mount Auburn the call, flicka-flicka-flicka, echoes throughout the cemetery. It is not unusual to find “flocks of flickers” in April behaving more like perching birds rather than hugging against the bark in typical woodpecker mode. The Northern Flicker is a common breeder at Mount Auburn with usually three to four pairs nesting on the grounds. Flickers, like all woodpeckers, make a drumming sound to attract a mate or to protect a territory. The birds use hollow areas of trunks or branches to make the sound carry over distance. Here at Mount Auburn it is not unusual for the Flicker to find a metal substance to enhance the sound. For several years a male Flicker used the monument of Nathaniel Bowditch off Walnut Avenue to broadcast his desire for a mate.
The favorite food for the Flicker, the only ground-feeding woodpecker, is ants and beetles. Flickers have long barbed tongues that can capture insects much deeper than their bills could reach in the soil. In the fall and winter you can find Flickers feeding in fruit trees as well as in other berry trees like the cork trees at Halcyon Lake