Nature – The Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with handsome black-scalloped plumage. Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to spend much time on the ground finding its food. A portion of its diet consists of ants and beetles, and it can often be found in open, sandy areas that are heavily populated by ant colonies.

Approaching the ant mound, the flicker vigorously disturbs the doorway of the ant colony. The “doorway” tunnels underground and branches into many chambers. The ants, protective of their larvae, respond to the threat of intrusion viciously attacking insects and worms, inflicting fatal bites killing their formidable enemies. Instinctively aware of the ants’ response, the flicker disrupts the colony, drawing the ants out of their confines. Its long, blade-like tongue, coated with a special, sticky fluid and impervious to the bite of the ant, is inserted into the ant hole and, being mistaken for an intruding worm, is attacked. The sticky coating entangles the ants and the tongue is quickly removed, and the flicker devours the succulent insects and then reinserts the tongue into the tunnel. With no way for ants to escape, the flicker is able to annihilate an entire ant colony or inflict such damage to the population that tremendous effort is required for the ants to recover.

This woodpecker is able to extend its probing, sticky tongue up to three inches beyond its beak. This allows it to collect and consume huge quantities of ants in a short period of time. Besides ants, the Northern Flicker eats a variety of insects such as crickets, beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars that are found on the ground, under debris. It also eats a variety of fruits, vegetables and berries.

The female determines the final location of their nest. If no available hollow is found, the paired flickers choose a decayed, deciduous tree, chipping and cleaning a suitable site. Carefully they remove the chips and deposit them a considerable distance from the nest to avoid it being exposed. Both the male and female share the responsibility of construction, incubation and also the feeding of the hatchlings. As they mature, survival skills are taught by hiding food for them to retrieve.

Every living thing participates in God’s divine plan, depending on Him for survival. From the least creature to God’s crowning act—Man, who was created in the image of God—all are to do His bidding in his own unique way. Instinctively birds obey, filling the air with music, fertilizing the ground, sometimes pollinating plants and at other times spreading seeds, clothing the earth in green. God said of His people, “This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.” Isaiah 43:21.

“God has given you brain power to use. The wants of the believers and the necessities of unbelievers are to be carefully studied, and your labors are to meet their necessities. … You are a servant of the living God.” Evangelism, 650.