Dave Kinneer of VA captured these shots of a Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus). A flicker has a five inch tongue, which extends to four times the length of its bill.
Flickers use their barbed tongue, which is coated with sticky saliva, to capture ants and ground beetles. They also eat fruits and seeds (especially in the winter).
I have not read any accounts of Northern flickers removing or eating eggs or nestlings of cavity nesters. Other woodpecker species (e.g., Red-bellied) have been known to remove eggs. However, Vicki Butler of Sacramento reports that flickers will enter a Wood Duck box (which has a larger entrance hole than a bluebird box), and pierce all the eggs. They don't eat the eggs - they just leave them in the box. I assume they do this to encourage the Wood Duck to abandon the box.
To prevent predation, use hole restrictor to prevent widening of the entrance hole, add a wooden faceguard, lower nest to 4.5"+ below entrance hole, or try deeper nestbox (8.5" from bottom of hole to floor) with kerfs below the hole to enable fledging.
This flicker may have been checking out the box as a potential nest site. In any case, the bluebirds nesting in this particular box did not appreciate the visit.
You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is vital not only for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself—a point that seems to escape many people.
-Gerald Durrell, The Nature Conservancy
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