Yesterday, I spooked some deer in my woods and saw their white tails flip as they ran.

This reminded me of a favorite bird I have not been seeing recently. The Northern Flicker. An un-sighting can be as noteworthy as a sighting.

What does a deer’s rump have to do with big tan woodpeckers that have black specks, yellow under their wings, and bluish heads with red spots?

Like deer, Flickers flash white at you as they take off.

There’s a big, bright patch on their lower back.

I don’t know why it’s there.

Girls have been highlighting their lower backs with tattoos for years. An attention-getting decoration. Maybe a Flicker’s white rump is also designed to grab attention.

Who’s to say? But, more important: who’s to see?

There are damn few Flickers around. Even the ornithologists call it a “decline.” I didn’t realize I hadn’t been seeing these birds until the deer’s white tails reminded me.

Flickers are among my favorites. That they’re largely unseen these days is disturbing. If you made a film called “Unseen,” people would think it was a scary movie.


The above post ran in May of 2012. Since then, it’s received a lot of comments, more than 100 at last count. One just recently came in, almost four years later. It’s good news that people are seeing Flickers, and when they Google them, they often wind up viewing this page. Thanks to everyone who commented, and told us that Flickers are alive and well.

178 Responses to “Unseen.”

  1. Tim Davis says:

    Just saw one of these handsome fellows land 5 feet from our backdoor. It’s a cool rainy day in Ayr Ontario.

  2. Greg says:

    Found this post trying to figure out who’s been in and out of my yard all week — a Northern Flicker visiting us in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. Lots of birds here but first time I’ve seen this guy.

  3. Michael McDermott says:

    This morning I spotted these birds in my backyard in Vermont .
    It took me a while to identify them,
    Thanks to some pics on the web and a link to you sight I was able to do so.
    There was as many a 6 Northern flickers in my yard at one time .
    Seems they are alive and well.
    They grazed all afternoon .
    They a nice looking birds and as they flew away
    You get to see the white Flicker
    Mike MCDermott

  4. Marlichia Pugh says:

    For the past few days, I’ve had these birds (maybe 10 or so) in the back yard pecking away into the grass/dirt! Thanks for identifying them for me. I live in southeastern Oklahoma!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Just saw several of them (1 male and a few females) hanging out in my backyard in Kansas City, MO. First time I have ever seen them and an internet search of what type of bird it was brought me to your page. :-)

  6. Kimberly says:

    I live in Ada Oklahoma and have them show up about 40 per day. They are pecking away in my grass lawn. Glad to know what they are now!

  7. Judith says:

    Live in Wagoner, Ok (Northeast Oklahoma) off Ft. Gibson Lake. Just saw a Flicker in my front yard. Had no idea what it was till I looked it up. We have redheaded woodpeckers here so thought at first it was a female….Wrong.
    Beautiful bird, first I’ve ever seen in my Native Oklahoma.

  8. Kevin says:

    We had 1 in our backyard today it’s call got my attention. It looked like a sort of quail like bird upon further research I found it was a Northern Flicker what a magnificent bird.

  9. Sue Lawton says:

    Just saw 4 or 5 of these pecking in the wet ground of my back yard in the metro Atlanta area. Don’t know that I’ve ever noticed them before.

  10. Teri Arledge says:

    We had 3 in our front yard this morning in Ohio. Had to look them up to identify. Beautiful birds. Of course they left as soon as I got my camera ready.

  11. Janet says:

    I saw one of these outside my window today, pecking into the grass. As it isn’t a bird I’ve typically seen around here ,(Mohawk Valley, NY) my curiosity led me to search & ended up here. Thank you for the information!

  12. cheryl paul says:

    I’ve had a flicker visiting my yard in Morgantown WV for the past couple of weeks. He’s constantly pecking at my yard, eating bugs I suspect. Haven’t seen his mate.

  13. DW says:

    Just saw one of these for the first time in my front yard in St. Charles, MO. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity about what type of bird it was.

  14. Trudy Garcia says:

    Friends of birds,
    We have a great looking Flicker that is visiting our feeders. I don’t know how to tell male or female.But it is the most beautiful thing to see.Quite large too.

  15. Trudy Garcia says:

    By the way,I live in Oregon,just west of Portland. We are checking the Woodpeckers. We have a very beautiful one that has been in my area for a few years now.

  16. Roxie Don says:

    Sitting on my front porch in Central Mississippi today, my mother and I just saw one of these pecking at the ground and flying from tree to tree chirping at us. Tried to photograph it but she didn’t sit still for a photo op.

  17. Danielle says:

    I just saw one today eating in the grass outside our clinic! Douro-Dummer Ontario!

  18. john says:

    Just saw one in my front yard! I needed to figure out what it was, thanks for the info. I thought at first it was a type of woodpecker. Braintre mass. Just outside of Boston,rain storm last night!

  19. Toby says:

    Spotted one today taking a dirt bath on my neighbor’s lawn. Quite a big bird. I, too, thought it might be a woodpecker, but it was far too big. Absolutely beautiful.

  20. Mark says:

    Never saw these before, Google brought me here. Several hanging around our property in Addison, (South Central) Michigan. Wonderful birds, glad to have them here!

  21. Stephanie Adamski says:

    Just saw two in my backyard, pottstow, pa. First time seeing them. Very beautiful bird.

  22. Robert dowdell says:

    Just saw a flicker for the first time here in tonawanda, NY. It took a drink out of my waterfall pond in my back yard and then flew away. Never saw one before, had to google it to figure out what it was.

  23. Myra Ungrady says:

    My brother and I saw one outside this morning 7/26 around 11 am in the back yard just this side of the tree/woods line and didn’t know what it was– so he googled birds of PA an then we finally found it. This is the first time I have seen a Flicker and I have lived here over 15 years. It was beautiful. It was just pecking around in the grass here in Collegeville PA

  24. Karen Rosenstein says:

    Had a flicker in my backyard this morning 8/26 at 12:30, just this side of a tree/brush line, pecking around in the grass–similar to Myra’s posting above. We are in southern Oakland county, MI. This is only my second flicker, and it was a joy to see. Thank you for the opportunity to share my siting here.

  25. Karen Rosenstein says:

    Adjustment to above posting!!! it was 12:30 p.m., not morning. Please correct on my behalf!! Thank you.

  26. Kari says:

    Hi, I have one of these lovelies checking out my porch right now! It’s about 12:15 p.m. on a warmish fall day in North Idaho.

  27. Kate says:

    I Just saw one 8:00 am on Long Island, NY. I’m not an official bird watcher by any means but it caught my eye this morning as I was looking out my kitchen window. I’d never seen one before and noticed the red patch and spots. Then when it flew away I got the amazing “flash”! What a beautiful bird!

  28. CarolH says:

    Just saw one in Greensboro, NC. Was on the ground digging into the grass with a side to side shake of it’s head. Stayed about 10 minutes before it flew away with the bright black and white flash of it’s tail showing.

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