Who’s Making That Metal Drumming Noise?

Northern flicker, male (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

18 April 2024

In case you haven’t noticed, northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) are loud right now.

The Northern Flicker is very vocal in spring during which its long call (kick, kick, kick, kick, kick) and drumming may be heard from more than a kilometer away [0.62 mile]. Homeowners sometimes express annoyance at individuals who take to hammering on metal chimneys and gates early in the morning, but fortunately this territorial advertisement only lasts for a few weeks in spring. 

Birds of the World, Northern Flicker vocalizations

Both sexes of flickers make a “jungle” call and drum loudly to attract a mate and establish territory. When drumming on wood they sound like this.

LOUD is important and city flickers have figured out that hammering on metal is louder than wood.

They hammer on streetlights. (This one stopped drumming for his photograph).

Northern flicker on streetlight, waiting to hammer (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

They hammer on the metal covers on electric poles. (Hey, be careful!)

Northern flicker hammering metal on electric pole (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

They hammered on the metal hoods of these old ballpark lights every spring. The lights were replaced at Magee Field in 2018. I never got a photo of the flickers on the floodlights but here’s one of a red-tailed hawk.

Old ballfield lights at Magee Field, Pittsburgh, with red-tailed hawk, July 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Flickers can be annoying when heard across the street, and worse than annoying when closer to home.

Who’s making that drumming noise? A northern flicker.

(credits are in the captions)

3 thoughts on “Who’s Making That Metal Drumming Noise?

  1. You haven’t lived till you are awakened by the sound of one of these drumming on aluminum siding on the outside of your bedroom. Certainly gets the heart pumping.

  2. Oh my goodness, I thought the pounding was a woodpecker! I was serenaded for a few weeks at dawn by relentless drumming on my chimney cap, like Lori. The offender must have found its mate because it has stopped now.

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