The northern flicker is a powerful, stocky
bird with a rounded head, long, flared tail that
tapers to a point, and downward-curved bill. It
is the only woodpecker to have a gray-brown
barred back and white rump. Underneath, the male
(right) is light tan with heavy black spotting.
The tail is black on top.
Northern flickers flash bright colors under
their wings and tails when they fly, yellow in
the eastern form, red in the western form. Once
believed to be two separate species, it is now
known that the two forms are subspecies, and that
there is considerable "mixing" of the
two forms where their ranges overlap.
This bird ranges from 11 to 14 inches in
length, and has an average wingspan of 21 inches.
The northern flicker is
widespread throughout North America, from Alaska
eastward to Quebec and south through the entire
United States. It is also found on Grand Cayman
and Cuba in the Caribbean and as far south as the
highlands of Nicaragua. One of the few migratory
North American woodpeckers, populations in
the southern and central parts of the range may
remain in the same location all year round, but
those at more northerly locations tend to travel
southwards before the onset of winter.
Northern flickers inhabit
wooded areas, open areas, forest edges, clear-cut
areas, burnt areas, agricultural lands, and
Unlike most woodpeckers, the northern flicker
feeds primarily on the ground. Ants make up most
of its diet, but grasshoppers, crickets,
termites, wasps, aphids, beetles and their
larvae, caterpillars, and spiders are also taken.
Cherries and the berries of dogwood, Virgina
creeper, poison ivy, sumac, hackberry, and
blackgum are also important foods, as are weed
seeds, acorns, and other types of nut kernels. In
the fall and winter, greater than half of its
food intake is in the form of fruit.
Northern flickers mate for life. Breeding
takes place from February to July.
The nest is excavated, by both parents, in a
dead tree trunk, dead part of a live tree, or a
telephone pole; nest boxes will also be used. The
territory around the nesting site is vigorously
defended by both sexes, by drumming loudly
against a tree and by confronting rivals in
"fencing duels" in which two birds face
each other with their bills pointed upwards and
the head rapidly twisted and bobbed.
The 3-12 glossy white eggs are incubated by
both parents for 11-16 days. Both parents feed
the young until they are 25-28 days old. Young
flickers will molt to adult plumage from June to
October. Mating pairs often raise two broods per
Other Habits and
Male flickers recognize females by sight. To
protect his mate or territory, birds of the same
sex become aggressive toward each other.
The northern flicker's song is a loud
"wick wick wick wick wick," while
individual notes sound like a loud
"klee-yer" and a squeaky "flick-a
genus & species Colaptes auratus
Animal Diversity Web http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Colaptes_auratus/
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