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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus Flickers are highest in the boreal and lowest in the Carolinian region. Habitat loss, competition for nest sites with European Starlings, and decreased availability of suitable nest sites have contributed to its decline. Breeding Biology Flickers function as both a primary and secondary cavity-nester, capable of excavating new nests each year but also nesting in natural or old woodpecker cavities. They breed in openings and edges of deciduous and mixed-woods, including burned areas and clearcuts if snags are retained. Northern Flickers breed in Ontario between late-April and mid July, laying seven to eight pure white eggs, and raising a single brood. In southern Ontario, they prefer to nest in the mid-storey in large diameter, dead, soft maple trees. Diet Northern Flickers feed principally on ants but also take other insects, fruit, seeds, and berries. They feed primarily on the ground, digging in the dirt and on downed logs to find ants, and use their long barbed tongue to lap them up. Management Guidelines As a species dependent on large diameter dead and declining trees, retention of snags and declining cavity trees during harvesting will benefit flickers. Unlike many forest species, increased residential development and fragmentation have increased the amount of habitat for flickers. They play an important role in forested ecosystems by excavating nesting and roosting holes that are subsequently used by many other birds and mammals that cannot make their own. Male Northern Flicker — Photo: Terry Sohl Identification (28–31 centimetres) This common ant-eating woodpecker, ranges across the forested part of North America. In the east, it has yellow feathers on the underside of the wing and tail visible during flight (reddish in the west). Males have a black “moustache” that is absent on females. Otherwise, both sexes are barred black and brown on top, spotted with black below, and have brown faces, grey heads, a red crescent on the nape, a black crescent on the upper breast, and a conspicuous white rump. Conservation Status The Northern Flicker is widespread and common, yet populations have declined by 70 percent over the last 35 years, placing it as a species of regional concern. It occurs throughout most wooded regions of North America, and is a familiar bird in many suburban environments. It breeds in most forest types, relying on large diameter dead and declining trees. Ontario densities of Northern How to Find One of the best ways to spot a Northern Flicker is to listen for its loud kick, kick, kick or wick-a-wick-a-wick-a call from the top of a dead snag. Look for the bird’s undulating flight and prominent white rump. Did you know? • The Northern Flicker is one of the few North American woodpeckers that is strongly migratory. Most birds in the northern parts of the range move south for the winter. • Flickers are easily identified by their strong undulating flight and prominent white rumps. • Although it climbs up tree trunks and hammers on wood like other woodpeckers, the species prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its favorite food. • Flickers make a loud whinny call that sounds somewhat like laughter and is often confused with the Pileated Woodpecker. 108 Bird Species Accounts

Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus patchy in the Carolinian region, where forest cover is low and large patches of mature and older woods are scarce. Breeding Biology The Pileated Woodpecker is a permanent resident of deciduous, mixed and coniferous forests in southern and central Canada and the western, midwestern, and eastern United States. Territories are naturally large, making for low densities even when populations are healthy. Nests are typically located in the mid to upper storey in dead or dead portions of live, large-diameter trees. Nest cavity entrances are large (11 x 8.5 cm) and oval shape. In Ontario, Pileated Woodpeckers breed from early May through mid-July, lay four white eggs, and raise a single brood. Diet Throughout the year, Pileated Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects found in dead and declining trees, and large fallen logs, particularly wood-boring beetle larvae and carpenter ants. During summer and fall, fruit and mast are also consumed. Management Guidelines Timber harvest has the most significant impact on habitat. Removal of large-diameter trees and downed wood, and opening of the canopy eliminates nest and roost sites, foraging habitat, and cover for Pileated Woodpeckers. Forest fragmentation reduces population density and makes birds vulnerable to predation by raptors as they fly between forest fragments. Retention of large-diameter dead and declining trees during harvesting would benefit this species. Dead trees are favoured sites in which to excavate nests and roost cavities. Availability of suitable mature forest habitat is limiting most populations. Male Pileated Woodpecker (left) Female Pileated Woodpecker (right) — Photo: Robert McCaw Identification (40–49 centimetres) The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Canada. Its loud ringing calls and large, rectangular feeding excavations in dead trees announce its presence in forests across much of the continent. The majority of its body is black, and a large white patch on the underside of each wing is visible during flight. It has a prominent red crest, white throat, and a white streak extending from the bill, across the cheek and down the neck. Males have a red “moustache,” while that of females is black. Conservation Status Pileated Woodpecker populations declined greatly with the clearing of the eastern forests. The species rebounded in the middle 20 th century, and has been increasing slowly but steadily across most of its range. In Ontario, the Pileated’s distribution is How to find Pileated Woodpeckers can be elusive in the forest, despite their size and spectacular appearance. Listen for the loud laugh-like call “kuk kuk kuk” ringing in the forest, similar to the flicker’s but louder and higher pitched. Did you know? • Pairs may partially excavate a number of new “test” cavities each year prior to completing a final nest cavity. • The Pileated digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half. • A pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will vigorously defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate “floaters” during the winter. Bird Species Accounts 109

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