Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)


The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. It belongs to the family Picidae, which includes woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and flickers. This species is known for its distinctive sharp bill, behavior, and widespread distribution.

Northern Flicker nesting in the cedar siding of a Big Bear mountain cabin.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 318

Description

The Northern Flicker exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males and females displaying different coloration. They have a length ranging from 28 to 36 centimeters (11 to 14 inches) and a wingspan of approximately 42 to 54 centimeters (16.5 to 21.3 inches).

  • Plumage: The upperparts of the Northern Flicker are brown with black barring, while the underparts are beige or tan with black spots. They have a black bib on their chest and a prominent black crescent on the breast. The undersides of their wings and tails are a vibrant yellow or red, depending on the subspecies.
  • Head: Their head is distinctive, with a gray face, a long, slightly curved bill, and a black malar stripe extending from the base of the bill to the neck.
  • Behavior: Northern Flickers are primarily ground foragers, often seen hopping on lawns or probing the soil for insects with their long, barbed tongues. They also feed on ants, beetles, termites, and fruits.

Habitat

Northern Flickers inhabit a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, forest edges, parks, suburban areas, and occasionally urban environments. They prefer areas with scattered trees and ample open ground for foraging.

Breeding and Nesting

Breeding season for Northern Flickers typically begins in late April and extends into August. They are cavity nesters and will excavate their own nest holes in dead or decaying trees, fence posts, or even buildings.

  • Eggs: Clutch sizes usually range from 3 to 8 eggs, which are white and elongated.
  • Incubation: Both parents participate in incubating the eggs, which lasts for about 11 to 14 days.
  • Fledging: The young birds fledge after approximately 25 to 28 days and remain dependent on their parents for several weeks after leaving the nest.

Migration

Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range of the species.
Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range of the species.

While some Northern Flicker populations are migratory, others are year-round residents. Migratory populations breed in northern regions and winter in southern areas, while non-migratory populations may remain in the same area throughout the year.

Conservation Status

The Northern Flicker is widespread and generally considered to be of least concern in terms of conservation status, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as competition for nest sites with invasive species such as European Starlings, pose localized threats.

The Northern Flicker is a fascinating species with its distinctive appearance, behavior, and adaptability to various habitats. Understanding its ecology and conservation needs is crucial for ensuring the continued well-being of this iconic woodpecker across its range. Further research into its nesting habits, population dynamics, and response to environmental changes can aid in effective conservation strategies.

Field Guide Description

“Two distinct groups occur: “Yellow-shafted Flicker” in the east and far north, and the “Red-shafted Flicker” in the west. These flickers have brown, barred back; spotted underparts, with black crescent bib. White rump is conspicuous in flight; no white wing patches. Intergrades are regularly seen in the Great Plains. “Yellow-shafted Flicker” has yellow wing lining and undertail color, gray crown, and tan face with a red crescent on nape. “Red-shafter Flicker” has brown crown and gray face, with no red crescent.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 318

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPiciformes
FamilyPicidae
GenusColaptes
Speciescauratus

References

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