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At Home With Flickers On Assignment

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At Home With Flickers
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At Home With Flickers Feature Image
   
By Jennifer Steinberg HollandPhotographs by Michael S. Quinton



Flashing bright underfeathers in flight, these big noisy woodpeckers help shape forest biodiversity.



Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

Eviction can be swift for the unwitting. Flicker houses are often
invaded by starlings, which will toss out eggs, while red squirrels may lunch on flicker young before taking over the space.
 
A hawk owl preys on a foraging adult flicker, perhaps leaving a much coveted nest cavity open for birds like the bufflehead duck. "From an ecological point of view, flickers are a keystone species," says University of Saskatchewan biologist Karen Wiebe. "Their homebuilding helps shape forest biodiversity."

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More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Some woodpeckers don't peck at all.  Especially Colaptes auratus, the northern flicker, whose soft snoot is more aptly suited to sifting through soil for its diet of ants.
 
Northern flickers thrive in wooded environments, where they make homes for their familes by excavating dead oak and conifer trees. They are a keystone species in that their abandoned—or sometimes looted—nests later make good homes for other forest dwellers. The American kestral and the buffle-head duck wait patiently for flicker cavaties, while red squirrels and starlings often go in for the kill.
 
While females compete with each other for breeding rights and access to the nest, male flickers do more of the parenting. If you ever hear an insect-like buzzing from the inside of a tree, it might be a baby flicker whose call can keep predators out. And if you ever hear a wicka-wicka-wicka in the woods, it's a call of the northern flicker who might well be performing a mating dance. Listen to the sounds of the northern flicker and learn more at
www.nenature.com/northernflicker.htm.
 
—Nora Gallagher
Did You Know?

Related Links
Biology of the Northern Flicker
www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/bird_bios/speciesaccounts/norfli.html
Wicka mating dances, female territoriality, paternal care, and flashy feathers. Discover more about this soft-snooted woodpecker at Cornell's famous ornithology lab website.
 
The Northern Flicker
www.laspilitas.com/California_birds/Woodpeckers/Northern_flicker/Northern_flicker.htm
The northern flicker thrives throughout North America.  View the maps on this website to learn exactly where to spot a northern flicker in your area, and find out how to attract them to your garden.

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Bibliography
Bent, Arthur Clevelend. Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers. Smithsonian Institution, Government Printing Office, 1939.
 
Knopf, Alfred A. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. Chanticleer Press, 1994.
 
Short, Lester L. Woodpeckers of the World. Delaware Museum of Natural History, 1982.
 
Winkler, Hans, David A. Christie, and David Nurney. Woodpeckers: A Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.

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NGS Resources
Brandt, Anthony. "A Walk in the Woods." National Geographic Adventure (March 2004), 24.
 
Gardiner, Stewart. Birds. National Geographic Books, 2003.

Rattini, Kristin Baird. "Animal Killers Busted!" National Geographic Kids (November 2003), 23-5.
 
Finley, Melody. "A Bird in Hand." National Geographic Explorer (September 2003), 2a.
 
Simmons, Rulon E. National Geographic Photography Field Guide—Birds: Secrets to Making Great Pictures. National Geographic Books, 2002.

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