How To Attract Northern Flickers To Your Yard (7 Tips & Tricks)


The northern flicker is a gorgeous species of woodpecker with a distinctive red cheek and black bib. They’re great visitors to backyards both because of their plumage and because they can help you get rid of insects.

In fact, one of the best ways to attract a northern flicker to your yard is to make it insect-friendly. Read about other tips for attracting northern flickers below.

7 Tips To Attract Northern Flickers To Your Yard

1. Feeders Are Most Important In The Winter

Woodpeckers, like northern flickers, eat a lot of insects. In fact, they make up the majority of their diet. One of the reasons flickers peck at trees is to reach the bugs beneath the bark.

Like the tree swallow, northern flickers don’t often visit bird feeders since they eat more bugs than seeds. But when bugs become scarce in the winter, they will eat more fruit and seeds.

They still like to forage on the ground, though, so consider a ground tray feeder. Or, if you want one higher up, use a platform feeder.

Northern flickers are somewhat large, sometimes reaching a foot long. Hanging feeders can swing too much to be comfortable for larger birds like flickers or blue jays.

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Suet feeders are a good option as well, as the cages are easy to grip.

2. Plant Late-Blooming Fruits

Because they can’t find as many bugs as the weather gets colder, northern flickers need other foods for the winter. You can fill a tray or platform feeder with sunflower seeds, which is popular for many different bird species.

You can also try planting bushes and trees that produce fruit late into the fall and winter. Persimmons, holly berries, and hackberries should keep their fruit into the winter for flickers to enjoy.

3. Attract Northern Flickers With A Heated Bird Bath

All birds need water for drinking and bathing. In addition to food, you can offer a clean water source to attract northern flickers to your yard.

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Northern flickers are year-round residents throughout the United States. Those in the far north do migrate to the southern U.S. for the winter, but otherwise, they’re sedentary.

So, you’ll likely still see northern flickers even when it’s colder. To make your backyard even more attractive to northern flickers, add a heating element to your bird bath.

They might not mind the cold, but if your water is warmer than anywhere else, northern flickers will visit more.

4. Leave Open Areas On Your Lawn

Woodpeckers are famous for drilling into the wood of trees, many times looking for food. But northern flickers also forage for insects on the ground, which is unusual for woodpeckers.

They have a slight curve to their bill that’s helpful for digging holes into the soil. Then, they lap up any ants or bugs they find with their very long and sticky tongues.

Leave a lot of open space on your lawn to invite northern flickers to look for food. And if you see an anthill, let it be!

5. Avoid Using Pesticides

Since northern flickers spend so much time on the ground, it’s important that your lawn is free from harmful pesticides. This includes insect sprays, weed killers, and rodenticides.

These pesticides can cause illness and even death for some animals, especially if they come in direct contact. Northern flickers are even more at risk because of how often they forage through the dirt and grass.

In addition, insecticides reduce the food sources of flickers. If there are no bugs in your yard to eat, northern flickers aren’t as likely to visit.

6. Leave Logs And Fallen Tree Limbs

Besides reducing your use of pesticides, you can also create specific areas for insects that northern flickers eat. If your yard has dead logs and fallen tree branches, move them out of the way instead of removing them.

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That way, they can become host to the ants and larvae that make up most of a northern flicker’s diet.

Watch a northern flicker comb through an old log here:

7. Northern Flickers Will Use Nesting Boxes

The final piece of advice for attracting northern flickers to your yard is to build nest boxes. These are man-made shelters that cavity nesters, like northern flickers, can use instead of fighting to find a natural space.

A cavity nester is a bird that builds its nest in a hole that they either find or excavate themselves. Most woodpeckers are primary cavity nesters, in that they will only use holes they make for themselves.

They’ll also excavate a new hole each season rather than returning to an old one.

Northern flickers are unusual because they can be primary or secondary nesters. They’ll excavate their own holes but are also happy to reuse a hole that they or another animal made previously.

That makes nest boxes perfect to attract them. In fact, you can offer multiple nest boxes that give them more options. Try leaving a plain, empty nest box for a northern flicker to fill on their own.

Then, place another nest box and fill it with wood shavings, available at most pet stores. This gives the flicker an opportunity to excavate a hole if they want.

You should avoid very fine sawdust for filler; only use large wood shavings and chips. Fine wood dust holds too much moisture and can be hard for flickers to dig into.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Is The Best Time To Attract Northern Flickers?

Northern flickers are common throughout the whole year in the southern United States. For those further north, you’ll probably see less of these woodpeckers as the weather gets colder.

Typical fall migration begins in September and may carry through to early November. Northern flickers will begin flying back north during the breeding season from March to April.

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Are Northern Flickers Friendly?

Many bird species can be aggressive when protecting their nesting territory. Northern flickers are no different, but they’re not that aggressive towards humans.

They may spread their wings and tail feathers as a threatening display, but they aren’t likely to attack. In fact, some consider them friendly, since they don’t mind nesting close to human settlements.

Why Are Northern Flickers Pecking My House?

Northern flickers are, of course, a species of woodpecker, so it’s in their nature to peck and drum on wood. That can even include pecking at your house, but this isn’t really a sign of aggression.

A northern flicker may peck on a house for a number of reasons. They could be looking for food or attempting to make a cavity for nesting. They may also be using drumming as a form of communication.

Woodpeckers use rhythmic drumming to both attract mates and tell other woodpeckers that an area is their territory.

To End

If you want to attract northern flickers to your backyard, all it takes is a few simple tricks. Leave old fallen tree branches and on the ground and clear out plenty of space. Northern flickers mostly eat insects, so giving them space and sources for foraging is a great way to encourage visits.

Add some shelter, water, and some fruit and you’ll attract northern flickers in no time.

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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