Northern Flicker

(Colaptes auratus)

Conservation Status
Northern Flicker
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5B, N5N - Secure Breeding and Nonbreeding

SNRB - Unranked Breeding


not listed


Northern Flicker is a common large woodpecker. Adults average 12½ to 13 in length with a 20 wingspan.

The body and wings are grayish-brown. The wings and back are barred. The tail is black on the top. The underside of the wings and tail are yellow. The rump, only visible in flight, is white. The breast and belly are buff to whitish and are heavily covered with black spots. The breast has a large black crescent.

The crown and the nape of the neck are gray. There is a bright red crescent on the nape of the neck. The chin and throat are tan. The face is brownish to buff. The male has a prominent black mark behind the bill usually described as a “mustache stripe.” The bill is long.

This bird is often seen flying away from the observer, making it impossible to see the head and neck markings. In these situations the white rump, conspicuous in flight, is the most useful identification mark.




12½ to 13 in length

20 wingspan




The song is a loud and rapid wick-wick-wick-wick-wick-wick. Each note bends upward.


Similar Species

  Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is similar in size and shape but not in coloration. When flying away it does not show a white rump.  

Open woodlands and forest edges, fields, and meadows; swamps in winter




Late February to late November




Between February and July the male and female join together and excavate a new nest usually in a dead or dying deciduous tree, sometimes in a telephone pole or fence post. Less commonly, they will repair and reuse an existing cavity or use a birdhouse. Excavation takes about 2 weeks. The female lays 5 to 8 large, glossy white eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs for 11 to 16 days, and after hatching, both sexes feed the young. Fledglings leave the nest 25 to 28 days after hatching.




Mostly ants found on the ground. Also other insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, termites, wasps, aphids, beetles, beetle larvae, and caterpillars; spiders, In late fall and early spring they also eat cherries; berries, including dogwood, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, sumac, and hackberry; and nuts, including acorns. Overwintering individuals regularly visit suet feeders.




Common to abundant migrant and breeder




The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union All Seasons Species Occurrence Map

  Class Aves (birds)  


Piciformes (woodpeckers, barbets, and allies)  


Picidae (woodpeckers)  




Colaptes (flickers and allies)  

In 1995 the American Ornithologist’s Union (AOU) split the Northern Flicker into two species, Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) and Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides).


Subordinate Taxa


Some authorities, including the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU), recognize ten subspecies (nine extant, one extinct). In this classification, Yellow Shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus luteus) is the only subspecies found in Minnesota. Other authorities recognize only two subspecies. In this classification, Yellow Shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus) is the only subspecies found in Minnesota.


auratus group (Yellow Shafted Flicker)

Southeastern Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus)

Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus luteus)


cafer group (Red Shafted Flicker)

Northern Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus cafer)

Southwestern Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus collaris)

Mexican Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus mexicanus)

Dwarf Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus nanus)

Guadalupe Flicker (Colaptes auratus rufipileus) (extinct)


chrysocaulosus group (Cuban Flicker)

Cuban Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus chrysocaulosus)

Grand Cayman Flicker (Colaptes auratus gundlachi)


mexicanoides group (Guatemalan Flicker)

Guatemalan Flicker (Colaptes auratus mexicanoides)











Visitor Photos

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Dan W. Andree


Wood Ducks and a Northern Flicker at a pond...

I was filming the wood ducks and a northern flicker flew into view and went over by the ducks. It was at a pond in Norman County Mn. 9-17-23.

  Wood Duck  

Gregory Gilman

    Northern Flicker      

Audra Popp


Just hanging out under the deck

    Northern Flicker   Northern Flicker  

Wayne Rasmussen


Northern Flicker (Yellowtail) at Breezy Point Resort 2011. Seen on the point north of the resort on Pelican Lake.

  Northern Flicker  

Bill Reynolds

    Northern Flicker      





  Northern Flicker
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Northern Flicker  
  Yellow-shafted Flicker
JMC Nature Photos
  Yellow-shafted Flicker  
  Northern Flicker
Craig A. Mullenbach
  Northern Flicker  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker Colaptes Auratus Auratus: Chicks Feed, Fly from Nest
Derek Grant

Published on Dec 2, 2013

This short video documents the lives of Northern (Yellow-Shafted) Flicker family over a 2 month period. Northern Flickers are ant eating woodpeckers that have a strong preference for nesting in tree cavities. Key Points: the stll at ~1:45 is a rare capture of the pair mating on a branch. The still at ~1:50 is an important part in the fledging process where the parent arrives at the nest to feed it's chicks and only feigns the feeding in hopes of luring it into leaving it's friendly confines. This causes the chicks to react aggressively in the midst of their hunger pang and the resultant a good peck to the stomach of the parent. If you look closely @ 7:33 and just after the chick's seventh chirp - you will see it fly from the nest. The still immediately following is of another chick leaving the nest.

  Yellow Shafted Flicker Tongue Action

Published on Feb 23, 2011

It's amazing what happens when you slow down the movie (50X); one can see the tongue...

Guest starring the tufted titmouse who demonstrates how to eat with ones feet...

  Yellow Shafted Flicker
Dean Martin

Uploaded on Jun 23, 2009

Feeding her young ones. Taken in my back yard




Visitor Sightings

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Be sure to include a location.
  Dan W. Andree

Location: Norman Co. Mn.

I was filming the wood ducks and a northern flicker flew into view and went over by the ducks. It was at a pond in Norman County Mn. 9-17-23.

Pileated Woodpecker  
  Maggie E

Location: Coon Rapids

I live in a Mobile Home with Coon Creek in my back yard. The Creek is an extension of Mississippi River I have lived here for over 20 years & Flicker has pecked at my home for over 10 of those years. I use Black Crow for scare & put up reflection tape. It helped for a year or two. They also keep good time. I had one year that he started at exactly 9am . My last resort and hoping will help I purchased spikes to install on my siding. Keeping fingers crossed this will send him far away.

Anyone with suggestions?

  John Valo

If the flicker is attempting to excavate a cavity for nesting, then putting up an appropriate birdhouse nearby might help. However, flickers also drill in search of food, drum to attract a mate, or drum to establish a territory. Here are some links with suggestions for managing them:

How to Minimize Flicker Damage, Wild Birds Unlimited

Northern Flicker – Biology and Damage Management, Utah State University Extension

  Lisa D

Location:  Long Lake, MN

It was sitting in a tree right near a window.  We have 2 suet feeders out, so it was probably on one of them.  Male.


Location: Inver Grove Heights

It was at our suet feeder.  It would flap its wings while positioning on the feeder and its bright yellow underside of its wings was such a fun surprise. 

  Audra Popp

Location: Royalton, Benton County

Just hanging out under the deck

Northern Flicker  
  Gregory Gilman

Location: Rochester, MN

Northern Flicker  
  Ben Walen
4/2 to 4/3/2020

Location: Minneapolis, Seward Neighborhood

2-3 in our yard

  J Miller

Location: Plymouth

I have three of them hanging out.

  Laura Nelson

Location: Lakeville, MN

sitting on our bird feeder pole & flew away into the trees

  Holly D

Location: Slayton MN

  Kim Niederkorn

Location: Vermillion MN

Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus luteus)

  Kim Gustafson

Location: Eagan, MN

My first sighting of a Northern Flicker!  He was eating "hearts and parts" bird seed out of my Squirrel Buster Plus feeder.

  Holly G

Location: Middle Rice Creek in New Brighton MN

  Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Breezy Point Resort, Crow Wing County

Northern Flicker (Yellowtail) at Breezy Point Resort 2011. Seen on the point north of the resort on Pelican Lake.

Northern Flicker  

Afton State Park

Agassiz Dunes SNA (MN DNR)

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Banning State Park

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blaine Wetland Sanctuary

Blue Mounds State Park

Boot Lake SNA

Bur Oak WMA

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Cedar Mountain SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chimney Rock SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Clinton Falls Dwarf Trout Lily SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes Preserve

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Great River Bluffs State Park

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Hampton Woods WMA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Jensen Memorial WMA

John A. Latsch State Park

Kasota Prairie

Keller Regional Park

Kilen Woods State Park

King’s and Queen’s Bluff SNA

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Johanna Esker Preserve

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Lawrence Creek SNA

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Leif Mountain

Lester Lake SNA

Lundblad Prairie SNA

Maplewood State Park

Mary Schmidt Crawford Woods SNA

McKnight Prairie

Minnesota Valley NWR, Long Meadow Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, Lawrence Unit

Mississippi River County Park

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Rice Lake State Park

Ritter Farm Park

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rockville County Park

St. Croix Savanna SNA

St. Croix State Park

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Lake Regional Park

Springbrook Nature Center

Stanley Eddy Memorial Park Reserve

Sunfish Lake Park

Tamarack Nature Center

Terrace Oaks West

Tiedemann WMA

Townsend Woods SNA

Tribute WMA

Twin Lakes SNA

Two Rivers Aspen Prairie Parkland SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Westwood Hills Nature Center

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

William O’Brien State Park

Wood-Rill SNA

Woodland Trails Regional Park







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