Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus




Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Code 4


Code 6




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Least Concern

The Northern Flicker has a large range, estimated globally at 15,000,000 square kilometers. Native to North and Central America and nearby island nations, this bird prefers forest ecosystems, though it can live on arable or pasture land or in urban areas. The global population of this bird is estimated at 16,000,000 individuals and does not show signs of significant decline that would necessitate inclusion on the IUCN Red List. For this reason, the current evaluation status of the Northern Flicker is Least Concern.


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Northern Flicker: Large polytypic woodpecker divided into two subspecies groups. Yellow-shafted male is gray-brown overall with a black-barred brown back, black-spotted buff-white underparts, and large black upper breast patch; clean white rump patch conspicuous in flight; tail feathers, primaries, and secondaries have bright yellow shafts and undersides; head has tan throat, chin, and sides, gray forehead, crown, and nape, thin red nape patch, thick black malar stripe, dark brown eyes, and grayish bill; legs and feet are grayish. Red-shafted male is similar but throat, chin, and sides of head are gray, malar stripe is red; forehead, crown, and nape are brown and lacking red nape patch; and shafts and undersides of tail and flight feathers are reddish. Sexes alike except female lacks malar stripe. Juvenile resemble adult of its respective subspecies but is duller, browner, and both sexes can have malar stripe. Readily hybridizes where their ranges meet; intergrade individuals show a mix of features. Typical woodpecker undulating flight, alternating several flaps with wings held to the sides. Hammers the ground in search of ants, but also eats fruits and seeds; uncommon backyard feeder visitor.

Range and Habitat North America

Northern Flicker: This species breeds from Alaska east through Manitoba to Newfoundland and south throughout the U.S. and into Mexico and Cuba. It is a resident from approximately the U.S.-Canada border southward, as the northernmost birds are migratory. Preferred habitats include forest edges and open woodlands approaching savannas.

Range and Habitat Hawaii

Range and Habitat Palau

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  • Northern Flickers use a drumming technique to attract a mate. Unfortunately for many people, they often practice on the metal flues of fireplaces.
  • Hybrids between the red-shafted and yellow-shafted subspecies are common where populations overlap.
  • The yellow-shafted subspecies is the state bird of Alabama.
  • A group of flickers are collectively known as a "guttering", "menorah", and "Peterson" of flickers.



About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.



Xeno-Canto Sound

Northern Flicker A1

  • Title: Northern Flicker A1
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: "Peah" calls are given by both sexes during the nesting season.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Northern Flicker B1

  • Title: Northern Flicker B1
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: Long call is a repeated "wik-wik-wik", usually given in the spring.
  • Location: CA
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Northern Flicker B2

  • Title: Northern Flicker B2
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: Drumming.
  • Location: CA
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Northern Flicker U1

  • Title: Northern Flicker U1
  • Recordist: Ross Gallardy
  • Description: Repeated squeaky "peah" calls.
  • Location: CA
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Lang Elliott Sound

Northern Flicker 5

  • Title: Northern Flicker 5
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Drumming and "wik-wik-wik" calls.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: MB

Northern Flicker 7

  • Title: Northern Flicker 7
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Interaction calls.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: NY

Northern Flicker 9

  • Title: Northern Flicker 9
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Nestling calls.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: CA

Similar Sounding Xeno-Canto

Gilded Flicker XX1

  • Title: Gilded Flicker XX1
  • Recordist: Scott Olmstead
  • Description: Long call is a series of "wik-wik-wik" notes.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Pileated Woodpecker H1

  • Title: Pileated Woodpecker H1
  • Recordist: Mike Nelson
  • Description: Rapid "wuk" calls are used as territorial and alarm calls.
  • Location: AL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Similar Sounding Lang

Gilded Flicker 1

  • Title: Gilded Flicker 1
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Call is a long series of loud "wik-wik-wik" notes.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: AZ

Pileated Woodpecker 1

  • Title: Pileated Woodpecker 1
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Rapid "wuk" series of calls used as territorial and alarm calls.
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: NY

Voice Text

"flicker", "wicka-wicka-wicka", "kleeer"


Northern Flicker: Song is a loud, repeated "flicker" or "wicka-wicka-wicka"; also makes a loud "kleeer."





Chris Vest


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

The upper front part of a bird.
The area of the face just below the bill.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Flight feathersX
Located on the wing, and collectively called remiges (singular, remex). The long stiff feathers are subdivided into two major groups based on the location and are called primaries and secondaries.
Malar stripeX
Also called whisker, mustache or malar streak, it is the area below the eye and bill on the sides of the chin that stretches downwards.
Also called the hindneck or collar, it is the back of the neck where the head joins the body.
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
Flight feathers that are attached to the wing in the area similar to the human forearm and between the body and the primaries.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X