Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Northern Flicker

[order] PICIFORMES | [family] Picidae | [latin] Colaptes auratus | [UK] Northern Flicker | [FR] Pic flamboyant | [DE] Goldspecht | [ES] Carpintero Norteno (Mex) | [NL] Gouden Grondspecht


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Colaptes auratus NA, MA widespread
Colaptes auratus auratus se USA
Colaptes auratus cafer s Alaska to n California (USA)
Colaptes auratus chrysocaulosus Cuba
Colaptes auratus collaris sw USA and nw Mexico
Colaptes auratus gundlachi Grand Cayman I.
Colaptes auratus luteus c Alaska to e Canada, ne USA and Montana (nc USA)
Colaptes auratus mexicanoides s Mexico to Nicaragua
Colaptes auratus mexicanus c Mexico
Colaptes auratus nanus w Texas (USA) to ne Mexico

Physical charateristics

In flight, note the conspicuouswhite rump. This and the barred i brown back mark the bird as a Flicker. Close up, it shows a i black patch
across the chest. Flight deeply undulating. Often hops awkwardly on the ground, feeding on ants. Three basic types are recognized:
(1)b “Yellow-shafted” Flicker: The northern and eastern form. Overhead, it flashes i golden yellow under the wings and tail.Red crescent on nape; the male has a i black
(2) b “Red-shafted” Flicker: The widespread western form. Similar to “Yellow-shafted,” but wing and tail linings aresalmon red. Both sexes lack red crescent on nape; male has a i red
mustache. Where ranges overlap (western edge of Plains) hybrids occur; these may have orange linings or a combination of characters.
(3) b “Gilded” Flicker: Resident in deserts of southeastern California (Colorado River), southern Arizona, Baja California. Wing and tail linings are usuallyyellow, but males have a i red
mustache. In essence, has head of “Red-shafted” and body of “Yellow-shafted.”

Listen to the sound of Northern Flicker

[audio: Flicker.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: cm size max.: cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


North America, Middle America : widespread


Open forests, woodlots, groves, towns, semi-open country. Also saguaros, deserts (“Gilded” Flicker).
With its wide range, from Alaska to Nicaragua, the flicker can be found in almost any habitat with trees (or, in the Southwest, giant cactus). Tends to avoid dense unbroken forest, requiring some open ground for foraging. May be in very open country with
few trees.


Males defend nesting territory with calling, drumming, and many aggressive displays, including swinging head back and forth, flicking wings open and spreading tail to show off bright underside. Courtship displays mostly similar.
b Nest: Site is cavity in tree or post (or in giant cactus), rarely in burrow in ground. Tree cavities usually in dead wood; pine, cottonwood, and willow are among favored trees. Cavity excavated by both sexes, typically 6-
20′ above ground, sometimes much higher (to 100′ or more). No nest material other than wood chips in cavity.
b Eggs: 5-8, sometimes 3-12. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night and part of day), 11-16 days.
b Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Young leave nest about 4 weeks after hatching, are fed by parents at first, later following them to good foraging sites. 1 brood per year, or 2 in south.

Feeding habits

Mostly ants and other insects.
Probably eats ants more frequently than any other North American bird. Also feeds on beetles, termites, caterpillars, and other insects. Eats many fruits and berries, especially in fall and winter, and eats seeds and nuts at times.
b Behavior: Forages by hopping on ground, climbing tree trunks and limbs, occasionally flying out to catch insects in the air. Also will perch in outer branches to eat fruits and berries.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Northern Flicker status Least Concern


Tree limit in Alaska, Canada, south to Nicaragua. b
Migration: “Yellow-shafted” Flickers from Alaska and Canada are strongly migratory, traveling east and south. Big flights move down Atl
antic Coast in fall. “Red-shafted” Flickers migrate shorter distances; some spread eastward onto plains in winter. “Gilded” Flickers are permanent residents.

Distribution map

Northern Flicker distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *