Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus
Range Map

Closely resembling the Gilded Flicker, we can find Northern Flickers over most of North America and central Mexico. However, they rarely occupy the same territory with its ‘Gilded’ relative. Eastern Northern Flickers have yellow shafts on their feathers, while western birds have red or orange shafts.

Northern Flickers are woodpeckers that frequently forage on the ground. Ants make up almost half of their diet. There are reports of a slight decline in populations. Observers believe the cause of the decline is because of the invasions of European Starlings, who out-compete most other native birds for nesting cavities.

Science recognises ten living subspecies of Northern Flickers. Some subspecies designations are regionally separated, and some have differing outward features, such as red or yellow feather shafts. One subspecies, the Guadalupe Red-Shafted Flicker (C. a. rufipileus) is now extinct.

  • Yellow-Shafted group
    • C. a. luteus breeds across the high latitudes of North America, from central Alaska east to the Maritime Provinces and south to the northern Great Plains east to the Appalachians.
    • C. a. auratus lives in Southeast USA, north to Virginia, west to east Texas and the eastern Great Plains.
  • Red-Shafted group
    • C. a. cafer lives in the Pacific Northwest, from southern Alaska to northern California.
    • C. a. collaris breeds on Pacific slope from northern California south to Baja California (Mexico).
    • C. a. rufipileus is extinct. It was a former resident on Isla Guadalupe (Mexico).
    • C. a. canescens breeds throughout the Great Basin and the Rocky Mountains from southwestern Canada south to northern Mexico.
    • C. a. mexicanus lives in central Mexico.
    • C. a. nanus lives in southwestern Texas (Big Bend) and in northeastern Mexico.
  • Guatemalan Flicker
    • C. a. mexicanoides lives from southern Mexico south into Central America.
  • Cuban Flicker
    • C. a. chrysocaulosus lives on Cuba.
    • C. a. gundlachi lives on Grand Cayman Island.

The Northern Flickers I’ve met have, so far, been in Western North America from as far north as Canada’s provinces of British Colombia and Alberta, and as far south as Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico. The flickers who’ve posed the best for me were in western Montana.

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      NorthernFlicker-Laff.mp3
      Northern Flicker KeeYer Call

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Click map markers to reveal further information