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.

17 Responses to “Unseen.”

  1. Carol says:

    I have. seen several here in my yard the last 2 days I live in S.E. Okla. I am a bird watcher of sorts…. never seen this bird here and I was born and raised in this area..glad I found this site

  2. Louise says:

    Just saw one in my yard in Regina, Saskatchewan.

  3. Joe says:

    I just saw 3 in my yard, it’s a first for me! St-Joseph du lac (QC) just north of Montreal.

  4. amanda says:

    just saw one of these in my back yard! Loveland, OH

  5. Robert says:

    Just saw one in my front yard in Middle Tennessee

  6. Bridget Richardson says:

    I just saw 3 together in my back yard where i toss out veggie scraps and bread. Big bunch of blueish black birds and the 3 flickers.. i looked them up to find out what they were. In crane hill Alabama jan 2013

  7. Tammy says:

    …bird in my back yard on December 18th 2012 in the Forbush area of North Carolina what a beautiful bird. Fairly large bird. Yellow tail feather not many maybe just one or two and the red spot on the back of the head area. This is the first time I have ever seen this kind of bird in this area. Found the name of the bird on the internet. Such a beautiful bird…hope to see it again.

  8. Aime says:

    I often go out on my back deck and feed the squirrels and birds… I noticed lately this beautiful bird and got a photo, granted not the best, but good enough to find it online on your site (thank you, it wasn’t easy to find!) There are several and they are beautiful. I live in Boston and haven’t seen these birds before, I hope they stick around!

  9. melissa says:

    I found your blog by asking google for red dots on bird heads and I found it! It was the first time I had seen one in my area of wash DC and my son and I were fascinated! I am so glad I can tell him what it is now. I saw another one this morning perhaps the same one or not.

  10. Cheryl Ribble says:

    I saw a flicker for the first time today. What a pretty bird! Had a hard time finding a picture of it to identify it though. I am not normally a bird watcher, but this one caught my eye when I pulled up the blinds this morning. I live in the woods, in New York state. Guess I’d better start watching!

  11. norm schaefer says:

    I just remembered….one of my 7th grade papers was on the Flicker. I picked it because I thought the name was neat. I forgot the grade Miss Rice gave me. Mainly I just copied whatever was in the Encyclopedia Brittanica …..Like Mike, I haven’t seen a Flicker in years.

  12. Donna Yancey says:

    Flickers are pretty common in the city of Seattle! So beautiful for our city eyes!

  13. Janet Levers says:

    Flickers here in the Central Valley of (N) California abound from late Fall until early Spring; they only leave when it starts getting warm-late March. Their call is so distinctive, it’s imprinted on me since childhood, so I’m always aware when they’re flicking by.

  14. Marc D. says:

    As Sam Goldwyn might’ve said of the absentee birds: “They stayed away in droves.”

  15. Cyndee says:

    Lots of Flickers out here in Pac NW.
    Keep looking up!
    PS I want that mug!!! Love your blog.

  16. Tim Janz says:

    Won’t comment on the girls and their markings but the Flicker is still common in central Wisconsin but with their ground foraging seem to be susceptible to the abundance of stray or feral cats.

  17. Lots of them still here in Portland, Oregon. I saw a pair yesterday on a rooftop, one of them drumming on a metal vent. They also “ant” on the sidewalks.