Northern Flicker Orphans

Two Northern Flicker (or “NOFL” in avian rehab circles) nestlings arrived at BRC this past summer. The first, admitted in late June, had fallen out of its nest. The finders were unable to locate the nest, so returning the bird was not possible even though he was healthy and had no injuries. In July we admitted another flicker who appeared to be around the same age, and the two quickly became buddies. As the video shows, to say they are enthusiastic eaters is an understatement! After a period in our Rehab Hospital the two birds were moved to an outdoor aviary for flight practice and to learn to eat and forage on their own.

Rehab Hospital volunteer and avian rehabilitation expert Dana Glei handled their reintroduction to the wild. This involved moving them in a portable release box to their new home territory. Dana provided food and monitored them over several days as they acclimated to the release site. They kept very busy remodeling their wooden release box by drilling holes in the walls.

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a large woodpecker (11–14 inches long with a wingspan of 17–21 inches). They can be found in both Northern California wildlands and suburban yards, where they forage for insects on the ground. They nest in tree cavities excavated with their signature pecking, which sounds like bursts of rapid drumbeats (about 25 beats over a second’s time). Once flickers abandon their nests, the cavities, like those of other large woodpeckers, provide critical nesting habitat for other birds, including owls. These birds are not shy, and their salmon-red underwing plumage can’t be missed in flight. But even if you don’t see them, you may hear them announcing their presence with a loud series of “wik-wik-wik-wik-wik” notes or a loud single call of “kyeer!”

Our rescue and rehabilitation teams invest thousands of hours each year to treat and return native birds back to the wild. BRC depends on your financial gifts in order to run our bird hospital and our rehabilitation program. Your generosity saves thousands of birds each year, like these Northern Flickers, by enabling BRC to rescue and care for our native wild birds in distress.