Natural Highlights: Northern Flicker

Winter is a great time to get outside and get to know the winter resident bird species here in the Mid-South, which include the woodpeckers.  The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is common here, joined in the wintertime by some of the Flickers which migrate from breeding grounds up in the far north, and it is easily identified by its black bib, red nape, white rump feathers (often seen as the bird is flying away), and the bright yellow underside of its tail feathers.  Its wing feathers have yellow shafts as well, thus its old name Yellow-shafted Flicker. Until recently, it was thought to be a different species from the Northern Flicker out west, which was called the Red-shafted Flicker.  It spends more of its time on the ground than other woodpeckers, searching for ants and beetles.  Though primarily an insect-eater, it will also consume seeds and berries, especially in the winter.  And it can be a very noisy bird, with a loud ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki call ringing through the woods, and loud drumming on trees and other objects during courtship in the spring. Sometimes Flickers choose to drum on chimneys, siding, and other parts of houses - which is temporary, but annoying nonetheless.

The Northern Flicker is unfortunately listed by the organization Partners in Flight as a Common Bird in Steep Decline.  According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their population has decreased 49% since 1966.  Besides helping to protect habitat, you can help Northern Flickers and other woodpeckers by putting up a nest box, preferably on a post with adequate predator protection.  Here are some plans and resources:;

For more information on the Northern Flicker, please visit the links below:

Posted by Cathy Justis at 11:45 AM