The Northern Flicker: A Flamboyant Woodpecker of North America

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), also known as the Common Flicker or Yellowhammer, is a charismatic and distinctive woodpecker species found across North America. With its striking plumage and distinct behaviors, this avian marvel captures the attention of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of the Northern Flicker, exploring its physical attributes, behavior, habitat, and conservation status.

Physical Attributes

The Northern Flicker showcases an array of captivating physical characteristics.


On average, adults measure around 11 to 14 inches in length, with a wingspan of 17 to 21 inches.


The bird’s plumage displays a unique blend of colors. The undersides of its wings and tail feathers are vividly yellow, while the upperparts are adorned with a mix of brown, black, and white patterns. The undersides of its flight feathers feature striking white spots.

Notable Features

Flickers boast a distinct black crescent-shaped bib on their upper chests, a feature that distinguishes them from other woodpecker species. Males can be identified by a black mustache stripe on either side of their face.

Behavior and Vocalizations

The Northern Flicker showcases a combination of behaviors that sets it apart from other woodpecker species.


Unlike most woodpeckers, flickers often forage on the ground for insects, ants, beetles, and seeds. They employ their specialized tongues, which can extend up to two inches to capture prey from crevices and excavations.


To establish territory and attract mates, flickers employ a distinctive drumming technique. They rhythmically strike their bills against resonant objects, such as tree trunks, to produce a loud, rapid series of knocks.


Flickers emit a variety of calls, including a sharp “wick-a-wick-a-wick” and a distinctive “wick-a-wick-a-wick-a-wick-a” song. Males often engage in vocal duets during courtship rituals.

Habitat and Range

Northern Flickers can be found in a range of habitats, including woodlands, open forests, suburban areas, and parklands throughout North America. They are migratory birds, with populations residing in different regions depending on the season. The “Yellow-shafted” subspecies predominantly inhabits the eastern regions of North America, while the “Red-shafted” subspecies is found in the western regions. Their range extends from Alaska and Canada down to parts of Mexico.

Conservation and Protection

The Northern Flicker is not currently considered a species of concern and is protected under various conservation laws and regulations. Providing nesting sites, protecting woodlands, and preserving dead trees (snags) can contribute to the conservation of this remarkable woodpecker.


The Northern Flicker is an enchanting woodpecker species that enchants birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts across North America. Its unique appearance, foraging habits, drumming behavior, and vocalizations make it a captivating sight and sound in diverse habitats. By appreciating and protecting the habitats and ecosystems that support the Northern Flicker, we can ensure the survival and continued presence of this flamboyant woodpecker for generations to come.

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