Boulder’s Love Drummer

“Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Oh, that’s the Woody Woodpecker’s tune
Ho-ho-ho ho ho! Ho-ho-ho ho ho!
Makes the other woodpeckers swoon”
Woody Woodpecker Song – words and music by George Tibbles and Ramey Idries
It is springtime in Boulder and love is in the air. The sound of drummers can be heard all over town.
When I first moved here I was confounded by the sound of hammering on my house and chimney. I finally found the culprit: a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratuso). This tenacious little woodpecker was building his nest in the side of my home. After some discussions with the Colorado Division of Wildlife I went out and bought a proper Flicker Box as a substitute for his bird brain choice. Now all is well for both of our families.

Flicker Box and Flicker Hole

During early spring  I hear the little love bird on my chimney impressing his girlfriend with his drumming skill. After a successful courtship this Northern Flicker will find a home for his feathery bride. He will try to find a nice tree to hollow out but they might just end up raising their family in my flicker box.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Drumming for Love

Northern Flicker between sets

With Swooning Groupie

Here are some interesting facts about Northern Flickers:

-You can often see a drumming bird pause, move its head just an inch or so away, and then begin drumming again with a very different quality of sound. Flicker drumming lasts about a second, during which the bird strikes the tree around 25 times. Drumming in woodpeckers takes the place of singing in songbirds. I guess if you spend your time beating your head against things it’s hard to sing.

-It is the only woodpecker that commonly feeds on the ground. It uses its slightly curved beak to find ants and beetles in the ground laping them up with its long barbed tongue.

-Early in spring and summer, rivals may face off in a display sometimes called a “fencing duel,” while a prospective mate looks on. Two birds face each other on a branch, bills pointed upward, and bob their heads in time while drawing a loop or figure-eight pattern in the air, often giving a rhythmic wicka calls at the same time.

-It is is one of the few woodpecker species that migrate.

-Although their numbers have been on the decline for the past 20 years  northern flicker populations are not seriously endangered by human activity, although human activity sometimes destroys their habitat. Few conservation measures are being taken because they are not recognized as endangered. As a migratory North American bird it is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.

-Like many woodpeckers, its flight is undulating. The repeated cycle of a quick succession of flaps followed by a pause creates an effect comparable to a rollercoaster.

-There are over 100 common names for the Northern Flicker. Among them are: Yellowhammer, clape, gaffer woodpecker, harry-wicket, heigh-ho, wake-up, walk-up, wick-up, yarrup, and gawker bird.

-It is the Alabama state bird.

For more information about this beautiful creature (including the sound of his drumming) see The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds.


3 Responses to “Boulder’s Love Drummer”

  1. songofthewolf Says:

    Your blog was so interesting. I loved reading it, & I learned a lot. I also keep a nature blog. Check it out @
    – Song of the wolf

  2. Boulder’s Bloomin’ « Tales from the Trails Says:

    […] Boulder’s love drummer, the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratuso) is drumming to signal the arrival of the season… Northern Flicker Drumming for Love […]

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