common flicker : habitat


common flicker : what to look for  

Common Flicker (Northern Flicker)

Colaptes auratus

* Length: 10 to13 inch;

* Habitat: deserts, farmlands, suburbs, parks, open forests;

* What to look for: white rump, particularly in flight; barred brown back; black crescent at throat; yellow or red on underside of wings and tail (in East US yellow only); male with ‘mustache’ of black (East) or red (West); flight deeply undulating.

This unusual woodpecker is often seen on the ground (hops awkwardly), searching for ants and licking them up with its long tongue. It does, however, nest in holes in trees - or tree substitutes such as telephone poles. Flickers are conspicuous in fall, when they often travel in loose flocks. In spring their arrival is announced by noisy calls: wick-a, wick-a, wick-a.

Three basic types are recognized:

(1) yellow-shafted flicker: overhead, it flashes golden yellow under the wings and tail; red crescent on nape; the male has a black ‘mustache’.

(2) red-shafted flicker: widespread western form; similar to yellow-shafted, but wing and tail linings are salmon-red; both sexes lack red crescent on nape; male has red ‘mustache’; where ranges overlap (western edge of Plains) hybrids occur which may have orange linings.

(3) gilded flicker: resident in deserts of SE California, S Arizona, Baja California; wing and tail linings usually yellow, but males have a red ‘mustache’; in essence, has head of red-shafted but body of yellow-shafted.

  UPDATED : 2005-05-22