About 12-14 inches (30-35 cm) long. The back is barred brown and
there is a black patch across the chest. The male also has a red
mustache. In flight the salmon-red wing and tail linings are
visible as is the white rump (Peterson, 1990). The bill is hard,
straight, and chisel shaped. The legs are short. The feet are
"yoke-toed" (zygodactylous) with toes I and IV pointing rearward
and toes II and III pointing forward. The claws are long (Leahy,
This species is found in deciduous and coniferous forests, open
woodlands, parks, and in deserts with saguaro and other large
cacti in the Subtropical and Temperate zones (American
Ornithologists' Union, 1983).
The Northern Flicker is a resident of central Alaska east to
Newfoundland, south throughout the continental United States to
Baja California and the interior highlands of Mexico, to Oaxaca
and west-central Veracruz. Also found in Cuba and Grand Cayman
(American Ornithologists' Union, 1983).
C. auratus is an insectivorous ground feeder whose primary
food source is ants. Fruit, nuts, bark, and other plant matter
are eaten in much lesser quantities (Leahy, 1982).
Colaptes auratus nests in unlined tree cavities or in
earthen banks or termite nests that are newly constructed each
year (Leahy, 1982). A clutch normally consists of 5-10 glossy
white eggs, though up to 20 have been recorded.
The Northern Flicker is a type of woodpecker (Leahy, 1982). It
includes what earlier were considered separate species, including
the Red-shafted Flicker, the Yellow-shafted Flicker, and the
Gilded Flicker (Peterson, 1990).
Flight is deeply undulating, while on the ground it hops
awkwardly. The voice has been described as both a loud
wick-wick-wick-wick, etc. and a loud klee-yer. A
squeaky flick-a, flick-a, etc. has also been heard
American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North
American birds, 6th ed. Allen Press, Lawrence, 877 pp.
Leahy, C. 1982. The birdwatcher's companion: an encyclopedic
handbook of North American birdlife. Hill and Wang, New York, 917
Peterson, R.T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Houghton
Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.
Mary Kirschenbaum, July 1996.