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Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus

Northern Flicker


 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Piciformes
 Family: Picidae 
 Genus: Colaptes
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern


Northern FlickerThe northern flicker is a large brown woodpecker. It has a white tail with black bars and a black tip, a light brown to off-white breast with black to brown spots, and a black "bib" on its upper chest. The male has a black or red "mustache" that runs from his bill down to his cheek.

There are five subspecies of northern flicker: the yellow-shafted flicker, the red-shafted flicker, the gilded flicker, the Guatemalan flicker, and the Cuban flicker. Throat color, head color, and the presence of a red marking on the neck can vary depending on the subspecies.

Northern FlickerThe yellow-shafted flicker has a red patch on its neck and yellow feathers on the inside of its wings. The male has a black mustache. Yellow-shafted flickers are found in the east and the north. The red-shafted flicker has pinkish feathers on the inside of its wings and the male has a red mustache. The red-shafted flicker is common in the west. The gilded flicker is found in the deserts of southeastern California and southern Arizona. It has yellow wing linings and the males have a red mustache.


mapThe flicker is found in much of North America from the tree line in Canada and Alaska south to Nicaragua. Flickers in Alaska and Canada are migratory.


The northern flicker is found in open forests, woodlots, and groves. It is also common in parks and gardens.


Northern FlickerThe flicker's diet is mostly insects, including ants. They also eat termites, beetles, caterpillars, fruits, and berries. They sometimes eat seeds and nuts.

Life Cycle

Northern FlickerDuring courtship, flickers peck or "hammer" on dead tree limbs or tin roofs. In some parts of the United States, flickers are known as yellowhammers!

They build their nests in holes in trees, telephone poles, or birdhouses. Gilded flickers may build their nests in cactuses. The female usually lays 6-8 eggs. Both the male and female incubate the eggs for 11-16 days. Both parents feed the fledglings regurgitated food.

The chicks leave the nest about four weeks after hatching. At first, the parents continue to feed them, but they eventually learn to forage for food on their own. Flickers in the north have one brood a year; in the south they may have two broods.


Northern FlickerThe flicker is the only woodpecker in North America that commonly finds food on the ground. It often forages for ants and beetle larvae on the ground. It sometimes perches on tree limbs to eat berries.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Paul Jaszczak cc logo