• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Northern Flicker - BirdForum Opus

Male, Yellow-shafted
Photo © by tetoneon
New Jersey, USA, 9 June 2017
Colaptes auratus


Female, Yellow-shafted
Photo © by KC Foggin
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA, 11 December 2015

30–35 cm (11¾-13¾ in)

  • Brown with black bars on the back and wings.
  • Beige breast and belly with black spots
  • black "necklace"
  • Dark tail, white rump
  • Black moustachial stripe in male

There are two forms which were formerly considered separate species:

"Yellow-shafted" Flicker

Resides in eastern North America.

  • Yellow under the tail and underwings and have yellow shafts on primaries
  • Grey cap, beige face
  • Red bar on their neck.

"Red-shafted" Flicker

Resides in western North America.

  • Red under the tail and underwings and have red shafts on their primaries.
  • Beige cap, a grey face
  • Red mustache

These two forms interbreed where their ranges overlap.

Male, Red-shafted
Photo © by Chuck Roberts, Littleton, Colorado, 21 March 2004


It is native to most of North America and parts of Central America. Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range; southern birds are often permanent residents.


The yellow-shafted and red-shafted forms have been considered separate species.


There are 10 subspecies[1]:

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)

  • C. a. cafer: Southern Alaska and British Columbia to northern California
  • C. a. collaris: South-western US to north-western Baja and western Mexico (Durango)
  • C. a. rufipileus: Formerly Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Extinct; last recorded 1906.
  • C. a. mexicanus: central Mexico, from Nayarit and Durango east to Veracruz, south to Oaxaca
  • C. a. nanus: southwestern United States (Chisos Mountains, Texas) and northeastern Mexico (Coahuila to Tamaulipas, south to San Luis Potosí)
  • C. a. mexicanoides: Highlands of southern Mexico (Chiapas) to Nicaragua


Male, Intergrade
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Pacifica, California, 8 October 2020

Their breeding habitat is forested areas across North America, as far south as Central America. Also suburban areas


Female, Intergrade
Photo © by sillyak
Alberta, Canada, 2 April 2021


Like many woodpeckers, its flight is undulating. The repeated cycle of a quick succession of flaps followed by a pause creates an effect comparable to a rollercoaster.


Flickers feed by probing with their bill, also sometimes catching insects in flight. Although they eat fruits, berries, seeds and nuts, their primary food is insects. Ants alone can make up 45% of their diet. They have a behavior called anting, during which they use the acid from the ants to assist in preening, as it is useful in keeping them free of parasites.


Juvenile, Yellow-shafted
Photo © by KC Foggin
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 22 September 2016

It takes about 1 to 2 weeks to build the nest which is built by both sexes of the mating pairs. Damaged nests or previously abandoned cavities may be repaired. The entrance hole is roughly 5 cm to 10 cm wide. Flickers will sometimes be willing to use a birdhouse if it is adequately sized and properly situated. They nest in a cavity in a tree or post; this bird excavates its own home. Abandoned flicker nests create habitat for other cavity nesters. They are sometimes driven from nesting sites by European Starlings.

Typically 6 to 8 eggs are laid, having a shell that is pure white with a smooth surface and high gloss. The eggs are the second largest of the North American woodpecker species, exceeded only by the Pileated Woodpecker's. Incubation is by both sexes for approximately 11 to 12 days. The young are fed by regurgitation and leave the nest about 25 to 28 days after hatching.


This bird's call is a sustained laugh, ki ki ki ki ..., more congenial than that of the Pileated Woodpecker. You could also hear a constant knocking as they often drum on trees or even metal objects to declare territory.


Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Wiebe, K. L. and W. S. Moore (2020). Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.norfli.01
  3. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, September 7). Northern flicker. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:25, October 9, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Northern_flicker&oldid=977124535
  4. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2019. Northern_Flicker in: All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/ Accessed on 9 October 2020

Recommended Citation

External Links

Search Gallery for videos

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.