Northern Flicker—Morning Duet

It rained most of the night here in Berkeley Co., WV. This morning (May 23, 2010) the forests around me were a dripping nightmare for a nature sound recordist. Where to go to avoid these percussive intrusions—a pasture!

Photo of a male Northern Flicker.

Thankfully there are many pastures in the county where I live and one in particular came to mind. A nice quiet country road on a Sunday morning well away from the drips of dense woods—now that should be quiet. I arrived before sunrise with the pasture shrouded in gray fog. Low-lying clouds drifted off the mountains to the east and west with an ominous promise of more rain. While the level of human sounds was at a minimum, the sounds of nature were rejoicing in the dawn.

Quiet pasture with barred wire fence and barn in distance.

Of course, pastures have fences. This particular pasture has a barbed-wire and locust post fence that stretches for miles. Thankfully, one of the posts was a drumming perch for a Northern Flicker. This morning the post was soaking wet and sounded a bit subdued. I can only imagine that the post, when dry, sounds more resonant. As my flicker drummed he was answered by another male drumming off in the distance (listen carefully—his drums are very soft). After a few drumming duets my flicker began to call. Soon he was answered by the distant male he had been duetting with. What a splendid respite to stand enthralled listening to these two male Northern Flickers calling back and forth to each other and trying to impress the ladies no doubt. The background songs of American Toads, Green Frogs, Grasshopper Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and more really added to the enjoyment of this magical morning.

Northern Flicker drumming and calling from fence post. Berkeley County, WV. May 23, 2010. ©Wil Hershberger.


  1. Yes, in fact this fence was about 3/4 mile south of the Grasshopper Sparrow field along the same road.
    Great list of birds that you picked out. There is also an Eastern Meadowlark singing in the background.

  2. Excellent recording! I love the reverberence of the second flicker. We once had a flicker nest in our neighbor’s yard, but it got taken over by a pair of starlings. Additional birds I hear in the background are American Crows, Cedar Waxwings, Gray Catbirds, and American Goldfinches.

    Is this the same pasture that you recorded the Grasshopper Sparrows in for the later blog “Pasture Dawn.”

  3. i’m very fond of Flickers; i have both Red and Yellow and a cross = orange… over the past two Winters. This Winter i have 4 3 male 1 female all Red – tho the Yellow and Orange show up every once in a while Here in Billings, Montana.
    i can whistle back ‘n fourth with them. as well the 4 Blue Jays who keep me bizzy keeping them in peanuts. This is the 3th year i’ve had them year round – i’m sure after tomorrow they’ll have wished they were in FL…as the temps drop to -20* F

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