The northern flicker is the official state bird of Alabama. There are two major types of this beautiful bird. They are “yellow-shafted” northern flicker and “red-shafted” northern flicker. The yellow-shafted Flicker has white underparts with dark spots, a black covering across the upper chest, and a red covering on the nape. Male northern flickers have a black mustache.
The red-shafted Flicker looks almost similar. The differences are that the salmon red substitutes the under part of the tail and wings, the red patch is not available on its nape and the patch on the neck is reddish. Unlike most woodpeckers, the yellowhammer does not have the hammering ability. So, it searches for dead trees, earthen banks, fence posts or nest boxes for testing purposes. The common name of the Alabama state bird “Northern flickers” comes from the bright yellow color on the underparts of the wings.
State Bird of Alabama Facts–
- Common name: Northern Flicker, Yellowhammer
- Scientific name: Colaptesauratus
- Habitat: Open forests, groves, orchards, farms, and semi-open country.
- Diet: fruits, seeds, nuts, ants, beetles and larvae.
- Song and Calls: a loud wick wick wick, ki-ki-ki (song); a loud flick-a Flicka (during hostility and wooing)
- Weight: 86 – 167 g
- Length: 28 – 36 cm
- Wingspan: 42 – 54 cm
- Average lifespan: “yellow-shafted” flicker (9.2 years); “red-shafted” flicker (8.9 years)
- Incubation period: 11 to 12 days
According to Dr. Jim Armstrong who is a wildlife scientist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System, while finding in Alabama all year round, the Northern flicker is one of the few migratory woodpeckers.Armstrong said that the Northern Flickers are sheltered as nongame species in Alabama under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.Most woodpeckers spend a lot of time in trees but Northern flickers spend a lot of their time scavenging on the earth because their diet usually consists of insects like beetles and ants. Northern Flickers dig into the ground to find ants. It employs its long tongue to seize and eat them.
Woodpeckers usually nest in tree hollows. Armstrong said that flickers nest from late spring all the way until summer. While there is no definite tree flickers nest in they prefer dead or crumbling trees. Their nests are typically close to the ground level.The male and female work together to make their home. The entrance-hole size of the nest is small in size, but the openingbroadens toward the ends that it fits the eggs and the flicker can easily incubate them. The nest is quite plain other than a bed of wood chips for the eggs to rest on.The flickers fancy making their home themselves but they will also take over abandoned nests if it is needed. Flickers reuse and repair nests that are damaged or abandoned that they can make the suitable home.
Alabama state bird “Northern flickers” typically lay five to eight eggs at a time. The eggs are all white in color and rationally small in size. The eggs usually take around 11 to 13 days to hatch after they are being laid. Both the male and female flicker take part in the incubating process.Dr. Geoffrey E. Hill who is an ornithologist and also a professor of biological sciences at Auburn University said that the state’s breeding population is relatively small.Hill also said that Northern flickers tend to prefer to breed up north then return south during the winter. He further said that Northern flickers are city birds. They are much more common in cities and parks than out in the wilderness.
Northern Flickers are available all over North America. The Flicker population in Alabama is biggest during the winter season as the flickers that migrate south in the colder times. Because of the warm climate in Alabama, some northern flickers stay there the whole year while others return back north when the weather is warmer.
According to Hill, “Northern flickers are much more abundant during the winter months. Actually, the majority of the population in Alabama fly back north when the winter is over.”
As Alabama’s state bird, this genus is known by the common name “yellowhammer”. This term originated during the Civil War of America. It refers to the Confederate soldiers from Alabama. The yellowhammer has been a symbol of Alabama since the Civil War.