NORTHERN RED SHAFTED FLICKER
Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with a gentle expression and handsome black-scalloped plumage. On walks, don’t be surprised if you scare one up from the ground. It’s not where you’d expect to find a woodpecker, but flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. When they fly you’ll see a flash of color in the wings – yellow if you’re in the East, red if you’re in the West – and a bright white flash on the rump.
- Size & ShapeFlickers are fairly large woodpeckers with a slim, rounded head, slightly downcurved bill, and long, flared tail that tapers to a point.
- Color PatternFlickers appear brownish overall with a white rump patch that’s conspicuous in flight and often visible when perched. The undersides of the wing and tail feathers are bright yellow, for eastern birds, or red, in western birds. With a closer look you’ll see the brown plumage is richly patterned with black spots, bars, and crescents.
- BehaviorNorthern Flickers spend lots of time on the ground, and when in trees they’re often perched upright on horizontal branches instead of leaning against their tails on a trunk. They fly in an up-and-down path using heavy flaps interspersed with glides, like many woodpeckers.
- HabitatLook for flickers in open habitats near trees, including woodlands, edges, yards, and parks. In the West you can find them in mountain forests all the way up to treeline.
Backyard TipsNorthern Flickers don’t habitually visit bird feeders, but you can find them in backyards and at bird baths. If your backyard has a mixture of trees and open ground, or if it’s near woods, you may find Northern Flickers simply by walking around the wooded edges. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.
Find This BirdTo find Northern Flickers, try walking through open woods or forest edges, but scan the ground. You may flush a flicker from a feeding spot up into a nearby tree. Look for the obvious white rump patch in flight. Also, be sure to listen for their loud, ringing call and their piercing yelp. In late summer, listen for the incessant yammering of hungry nestlings to find a nest.
Get InvolvedWatch your feeders in winter and report your counts of birds to Project FeederWatch
Report your Northern Flicker sightings to eBird
Are you watching Northern Flickers in a city? Participate in art, cultural, and science activities through Celebrate Urban Birds!
You Might Also LikeExplore sounds and video of Northern Flickers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive