THE NORTHERN FLICKER
(Colaptes auratus)

Northern Flicker feeding on fallen tree

The Northern Flicker also known as the Common Flicker, is a member of the Woodpecker family and is native to most of North America, including here in southern Ontario.

This bird is the only Woodpecker to be ground-feeding as it takes grubs and insects from fallen logs and trees.

They are fairly large woodpeckers and have a rounded, narrow head with a pointed bill and their tail tapers to a point.

Adults are brown with black on the back and wings, the belly and lower part of the breast are beige with black spots, the wings are black and white, and the underside of the wings is bright yellow.

Ground feeding Northern Flicker

At the back of the head there is a small patch of red, and when the bird is flying away, you may observe a patch of light coloured feathers on the rump of the bird.

I see these birds often near our home and see them feeding on fallen trees where they eat ants and other insects.

These birds are between 11" to 14" in length with a wingspan of around 17" to 21".

As with other Woodpeckers, the flight of the Flicker is undulating with the effect of "flap, flap, flap, glide" pattern.

They are also known to eat fruits, seeds and berries, but their main food is insects, many of which are ants.

Common Flicker with green background

In winter-time Flickers will eat the seeds of sumac, grap, hackberries, elderberries as well as sunflower and thistle seeds.

The habitat for breeding is forests and they build their nests in tree cavities, but they will also use birdhouses and posts if they are in a good location.

Once the pair have found a place to build their nest they will do so, which takes them about two weeks and they then will lay between 6 to 8 eggs which are kept warm (incubated) by both the male and female for around 12 days, after which the youngsters hatch.

Their parents regurgitate food for the chicks and they quickly grow and are fully fledged in around 3.5 to 4 weeks.

The call of the Northern Flicker sounds like laughter - a "ki, ki, ki" which is different than other Woodpeckers.

They will often "drum" by knocking on trees or sometimes on metal objects to declare their territory and for communication between individuals.

Northern Flicker Info ...

The Northern Flicker - All About Birds


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A female and offspring have appeared in my yard, they are the size of doves, grey brown in colour, with long bill. They have a red patch on the back …

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I have seen this beautiful bird in my backyard and assume it is passing through as it is not common around this area. Thank you for your picture, Joanna. …

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