May 4

Reader offers tips to build your own flicker nest box



The following post and photos come from John Wolff, a Maple Leaf resident who lives near Olympic View Elementary (more on flickers in Maple Leaf):

The current “Owl and the Woodpecker” exhibit at UW’s Burke Museum inspired me to build a starling-resistant Northern Flicker nest box (google “starling resistant flicker box”).

I poached the design (from Fiddle Creek Farms, Shaw Creek Bird Supply and See More Wild Birds), got it up rather late (early April), but by May 1 it’s already occupied! The sloping face with no perch exploits woodpeckers’ tree-climbing ability. I made, but did not install, the plexiglass starling shield; time will tell if it’s necessary. The front is hinged on nails for easy cleaning if starlings invade it.

If you have woodpeckers pecking on your house to excavate a nest cavity, this is a way to make them a better offer elsewhere, but check for insect infestation — if they’re pecking on your house for feeding purposes, you may have another problem entirely.

Their drumming is not to make a hole, it’s to attract a girlfriend. There is often a difference of opinion between drummers and their audience, so if they enjoy the tone of your sheet metal chimney cover more than you do at 5:00 AM, you can make them a better offer by mounting a better flicker drum someplace not on your house (more via the Baltimore Bird Club). 

Flickers are under serious nest-cavity competition from the invasive, aggressive, non-native starlings (birders hate them) — so if you do this, you have to keep an eye on it and forcibly evict the interlopers.
Also, if you feed birds or put up nest boxes, make sure you’re not encouraging House Sparrows, a truly nasty invasive species that kills bluebirds, swallows, and purple martins in their nest cavities and has seriously depleted their populations (birders hate them, too). Learn more at All About Birds, Sialis and Sparrow Traps.

Wolff adds that a flicker may be trying to nest in a cavity at the top of an old telephone pole opposite the front door of St. Catherine’s School, so a nest box in that area could be just what that flicker is looking for.

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  1. I removed the plexiglass starling shield. It’s been up a month and we have a pair of flickers nesting. We’ll see if starlings kick them out (this happens). Flickers are easily spotted by the big white rump patch, conspicuous in flight. Bigger than a robin.

    A fun hobby is a backyard bird list. Ours is old, yellowed, taped inside a kitchen cupboard since we moved in. It lists 71 species, including the Goodyear blimp, B17, B24, B25, F117, and the Boeing 787. Cheating on your bird list is traditional.

  2. I KNEW we had flickers in our trees! Thank you! We’re over on the other side of the freeway, Licton Springs, appreciate the article…gotta get busy!

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