Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
bird photography

Northern Flicker Photo @
Location: Superior, AZ (Boyce Thompson Arboretum)
GPS: 33.3N, -111.2W, elev=2,373' MAP
Date: November 29, 2009
ID : 7C2V4870 [3888 x 2592]

Northern Flicker Image @
Location: Superior, AZ (Boyce Thompson Arboretum)
GPS: 33.3N, -111.2W, elev=2,373' MAP
Date: November 29, 2009
ID : 7C2V4859 [3888 x 2592]

nature photography

Northern Flicker Photo @
Location: Upper Ramsey Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, AZ
GPS: 31.4N, -110.3W, elev=6,472' MAP
Date: June 10, 2016
ID : B13K1776 [4896 x 3264]

bird photography

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted Photo)
Location: Idyllwild, CA
GPS: 33.7N, -116.7W, elev=5,294' MAP
Date: December 24, 2007
ID : ? [3888 x 2592]

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted Photo)
Location: Dublin, GA
GPS: 32.5N, -82.9W, elev=231' MAP
Date: February 10, 2007
ID : 1151 [3888 x 2592]

nature photography

Northern Flicker Picture @
Location: Superior, AZ (Boyce Thompson Arboretum)
GPS: 33.3N, -111.2W, elev=2,373' MAP
Date: November 29, 2009
ID : 7C2V4853 [3888 x 2592]

bird photography


The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized member of the woodpecker family. It is native to most of North America, parts of Central America, is one of the few woodpecker species that migrates, and is the only woodpecker that commonly feeds on the ground.

Adults are brown with black bars on the back and wings and measure approximately 32 cm (12.5 inches) in length. A necklace-like black patch occupies the upper breast, while the lower breast and belly are beige with black spots. Males can be identified by a black or red moustachial stripe at the base of the beak. The tail is dark on top, transitioning to a white rump which is conspicuous in flight.

There are two forms which were formerly considered separate species:

The Yellow-shafted Flicker resides in eastern North America. They are yellow under the tail and underwings and have yellow shafts on their primaries. They have a grey cap, a beige face and a red bar at the nape of their neck. Males have a black moustache.

The Red-shafted Flicker resides in western North America. They are red under the tail and underwings and have red shafts on their primaries. They have a beige cap and a grey face. Males have a red moustache.

These two forms interbreed where their ranges overlap.

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

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.

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.

Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of the range; southern birds are often permanent residents.

According to the Audubon guide, "flickers are the only woodpeckers that frequently feed on the ground", 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.

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.

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.

Listen to the call of the Northern Flicker here.

Under its local name "Yellowhammer", the Yellow-shafted Flicker is the state bird of Alabama.

Alabama has been known as the "Yellowhammer State" since the American Civil War. The yellowhammer nickname was applied to the Confederate soldiers from Alabama when a company of young cavalry soldiers from Huntsville, under the command of Rev. D.C. Kelly, arrived at Hopkinsville, KY, where Gen. Forrest's troops were stationed. The officers and men of the Huntsville company wore fine, new uniforms, whereas the soldiers who had long been on the battlefields were dressed in faded, worn uniforms. On the sleeves, collars and coattails of the new cavalry troop were bits of brilliant yellow cloth. As the company rode past Company A , Will Arnett cried out in greeting "Yellowhammer, Yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!" The greeting brought a roar of laughter from the men and from that moment the Huntsville soldiers were spoken of as the "yellowhammer company." The term quickly spread throughout the Confederate Army and all Alabama troops were referred to unofficially as the "Yellowhammers."

When the Confederate Veterans in Alabama were organized they took pride in being referred to as the "Yellowhammers" and wore a yellowhammer feather in their caps or lapels during reunions.

This should not be confused with the unrelated Emberiza citrinella, which also goes by the name yellowhammer.


bird photography
northern_flicker's Range Map Click here to see the Northern Flicker's range map!
Listen to the Northern Flicker Song:

nature photography
All images and video © Copyright 2006-2016 Christopher Taylor, Content and maps by their respective owner. All rights reserved.
nature photography

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