Northern Flicker Composite

Colaptes auratus

The Northern Flicker’s attire is not bright and showy, but if you study it closely, you may notice an understated elegance and beauty that is no less pleasing. Flickers can be shy and wary. They seem to feel the need to fly away if they see you keeping an eye on them. These birds are yet another example of subjects that are best captured with an ambush strategy rather than a more active hunting strategy. The secret is to find a place where they’re inclined to approach you.

Flickers can be found most places in the USA year-round and are one of the few birds in the woodpecker clan to migrate. Summer will find these birds north into Canada and Alaska. Some parts of Mexico have year-round flickers, but some birds will migrate there in winter. Cuba has a year-round population of flickers too.

Flickers can be divided in two classic groups as distinguished by the pigmentation of the central shaft of their feathers, especially the largest wing and tail feathers. One group has a reddish-orange shaft (Red-Shafted) and the other has a yellowish shaft (Yellow-Shafted). The further east, the more likely one will encounter the Yellow-Shafted variety. The further west, the more the likelihood of a Red-Shafted encounter. When I was much younger (in the last millennium) these birds were considered separate species. Science’s present view is that they are a single species (Northern). Search as I may, I can find no record of a “Southern Flicker” species.

Unlike most other woodpeckers, flickers will frequently forage on the ground, searching for ants and other insects to eat. Occasionally they have been found to nest in the burrows of kingfishers and Bank Swallows (Sand Martins). Mostly they nest in holes excavated in trees as do most birds in the woodpecker clan.

To view more images of these birds, click <Here>.

Leave a Comment