Bang the Drum

Northern flickers make a racket this time of year, both with their loud rattling calls and with their boisterous drumming. You’re likely to hear this woodpecker before you see it. That was the case for me today at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

I was walking around the boardwalk, tracking turtles and counting birds, as usual, when suddenly I heard this loud hammering noise above me. I looked up, and there on the railing of the Lester E. Fisher Bridge sat a very proud looking northern flicker. It looked like it was ready to have its photo taken, standing there where so many visitors pose for photos with the skyline backdrop. The flicker gave a few loud calls and then began vigorously drumming on the railing, like a jackhammer. And wow, was it loud!

Flickers use drumming as a form of communication and as a way to say, “This is my territory!” As such, it’s important to find the loudest drum possible. I’ve seen flickers drum on the rounded tops of lamp-posts before, which I could hear all the way down the street.

The railing proved to be quite a good drum also, as I easily heard the flicker from down the walkway at Nature Boardwalk. The sound carried above the ceaseless honking of Canada geese and crying of the gulls.

I’ve seen lots of people take their picture at the Fisher Bridge, standing against the railing, and now the railing has a new use: Drum!

Vicky Hunt


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