Garden birds: Northern Flickers

One of my favorite visitors to our bird feeders are Northern Flickers. These woodpeckers are so beautifully marked and just love the suet we put out for them during the colder months.

While I enjoy seeing them every day, it wasn't always that way.

Shortly after moving to Spokane in 1978, a friend named Doug worked for the Fish and Wildlife dept. Someone had apparently found a Northern Flicker nestling on the ground and brought it to them because they weren't sure what to do with it.

Knowing I am an animal lover, Doug decided to bring it to me to raise. I didn't know much about such things but after a little research, I agreed to raise him until he fledged.

We nicknamed him Woody, of course, because he made those "eh eh eh eh eh" sounds constantly. It was a really annoying noise that went on all day long and, unfortunately, all night long. At night, we would have to set the shoebox that we were raising him in under the kitchen sink so we could get some peace and quiet!

Once Woody was getting close to fledging, I would take him outside and let him hop around on the ground. I guess he was a bit imprinted to me because he would follow me around around the yard. But this was not a sweet little bird -- oh no. Any chance he had, he would peck at me... my hands, head, arms, shins and calves were all fair game as far as he was concerned. Some gratitude, huh?

Even so, I kept caring for him despite his obnoxious habits. Pretty soon, he was starting to fly short distances. When he finally was able to fly pretty well, I happily bid him adieu and wished him a long, happy bird life.

However, for the next several years, any time I heard the call that a Flicker makes, I would automatically go into a protective posture because I was just sure Woody had come back and was going to peck me on the head!

But it's amazing how time heal all wounds because now I just love watching them attack the suet in the feeder or hop around in our trees. I guess they're back in my good graces again. Just don't ask me to raise any, though.