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PROWLS rescues northern flicker

Northern flicker

A familiar spring sound is the northern flicker banging away on a metal house chimney; it is inevitable that one will eventually topple in.

Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society (PROWLS) president Merrilee Prior was called when one was heard banging halfway down a chimney, caught on a shelf. The flicker soon fell the rest of the way and was then totally immersed in ash and covered in soot, even its eyebrows.

Quickly pulled out by Merrilee, it was taken back to PROWLS and endured a series of baths under the laundry tap, with the water and soap working deep into the feathers. It was essential to remove all the ash before the flicker began to preen, preventing it from eating potentially fatal ash. The water ran black for a long time.

Another major concern was to not totally destroy its own waterproofing. Thoroughly worn out and stressed after four complete baths and rinses, this very bedraggled northern flicker was finally dried off with a towel and placed under a heat lamp with a bowl of mealworms. What a relief!

The next step was to restore its natural waterproofing, with frequent misting to encourage the bird to preen and distribute water repelling oils throughout its feathers. When the mist began to bead up, the flicker was returned to the yard with the chimney and released.

Like most woodpeckers, northern flickers drum on objects as a form of communication and territory defence. In such cases, the objective is to make as loud a noise as possible.

One could be heard drumming on an abandoned tractor from almost a kilometre away.