Sunday, February 7, 2016

Powerful beaks

Around here, we have a lot of red-shafted flickers, sometimes called Northern flickers.

They're lovely and showy birds, but man can they do a lot of damage in a hurry. With their powerful beaks, they can rip things to shreds. We still have holes in the side of our house from a few years ago where one decided to peck it apart to try and find bugs underneath. We have a tolerance for them as long as they leave our structures alone.

A couple weeks ago, we noticed some activity on our front porch, where have an enormous bald-faced hornet's nest still attached. This nest dates from 2012, and it's just been sitting there empty since then.

Finally it attracted the attention of a red-shafted flicker. Over a period of a few days, it systematically ripped the nest apart, searching (presumably) for any leftover larvae. (The photos were taken through the window, hence the reflections.)

In no time at all, the interior of the nest was exposed as the flicker probed for goodies.

The amazing symmetry of wasp and bee construction never fails to amaze me.

I'd been meaning to take down the old nest anyway, and dissect it, but I guess this flicker beat me to it. At least he was able to make a meal out of it. Me, I'd have just thrown it away.


  1. We've taken the nests of yellow jackets inside to dissect after capturing the queen and enough of the others in the yellow traps to cause the hive to die off. It is a beautiful testimony to how things are not "accidental" in nature.
    We generally leave our bald faced hornets alone unless they build on our buildings, as they capture the nasty tempered yellow jackets. Last summer we found a huge bald-faced nest built just a few feet off the ground in a very young tree. We spotted it as my husband was using the tractor bucket to clear the fence line so we could put up fencing. Very fortunate we did so...
    Later that day, we found a large active yellow jacket nest in the apple trees. At dusk we gave them a nice drink of "killer". The baldfaced nest was devoured, and I suspected black bear but I don't know. The bear was making himself known in other ways, so he gets the blame.
    The flickers are very destructive. We had one visit a few weeks ago and he cleaned out all the crevices on the porch and left. He was the nicest one we've ever had and understood the three days of company rule, lol.

  2. What a great post. I can't begin to express how interested and delighted I was to read and see your multiple pictures. Uplifting after a morning's reading of bad economic news.