A New World woodpecker, the Northern Flicker can be found in Canada, the U.S., and parts of Central America. Although most woodpeckers are often black and white, this woodpecker is brown, with red or yellow.
There are two kinds of Northern Flickers: red-shafted and yellow-shafted. The red-shafted, photographed here, are in western North America. The yellow-shafted is in the east and north. The two species interbreed wherever their ranges intersect, primarily on the western Great Plains. Flickers in colder regions migrate in fall.
The diet of Colaptes auratus, a medium-sized bird with a strong bill, is mostly ants. They also feed on beetles, termites, and other insects. Due to their preference for ants, they can often be found near the ground.
With a very distinctive call and markings, birders know immediately when a flicker is nearby. Beautiful and unique markings, and the easily visible white rump patch.
To learn more about the flicker, including a sound byte, click here.
My first siting of a northern flicker remains sweetly present in my memory. We saw a big brownish bird foraging close to the ground, it was a complete mystery. When it flew we saw a white rump. We chased after it–ran across the front yard of a lodge, looking, I am certain, like total dorks. With the help of our field guide, we figured it out. Until then we had thought all woodpeckers were black and white, and banging on trees.
The flicker lives year round in California. Their ki ki ki ki is an utter delight to hear, each and every time it echoes across the forest.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander