- Fernandina's Flicker
 - Fernandina's Flicker
 - Fernandina's Flicker
 - Fernandina's Flicker

Fernandina's Flicker Colaptes fernandinae Scientific name definitions

Hans Winkler and David Christie
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated June 11, 2015

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Fernandina's Flicker is an endemic to Cuba. This woodpecker has a patchy distribution across the island of Cuba and primary restricted to the wet palm savanna ecosystems, with an unknown population, from central to western Cuba. This flicker nest primarily in on palms of 3 genus Copernica, Sabal and Roystonea. As the native Cuban palm savanna ecosystem has shrink or impacted by direct and indirect human activities (e.g., cattle ranching, induced fires, invasive species, incursion of seawater level) the population of the Fernandina's Flicker has shrink and therefore shows evidence of population decline. Fernandina's Flicker has a barred plumage pattern that somewhat resembles that of a female Williamson's Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus). Males have a black stripe of feathers in the malar region while in the female this mark is absent. Fernandina's Flickers breed between February to July, and nest in both live and old hollowed out palms. They share these breeding trees with other secondary cavity nesting birds such as American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Bare-legged Owl (Gymnoglaux lawrencii), and Cuban Parakeet (Aratinga euops). Interestingly there is evidence that nesting holes used by the flickers and other secondary cavity nesting birds are initiated by the West Indian Woodpeckers (Melanerpes superciliaris). During the breeding season there is a strong antagonistic interactions between the two woodpecker species. The West Indian Woodpecker is very territorial and destroys eggs and removes chicks of other secondary nesting bird, including those of the Fernandina's Flicker. This flicker species forages on the ground for ants, however also feeds on ants and termites found in live and decaying palms primarily during the wet season when the ground is flooded.

Field Identification

c. 30–34 cm. Male has buff-cinnamon forehead to nape finely streaked black, occasionally hint of red on nape; whitish-buff lores and narrow line above and below eye, buffish-yellow ear-coverts  more cinnamon at rear; black malar stripe , sometimes mixed with red; whitish chin and throat heavily streaked black, black spots on lower throat and throat sides; pale yellow to buffish-yellow upperparts, including wing-coverts and tertials, densely barred blackish-brown, rump and uppertail-coverts paler with bars narrower; dark brown flight-feathers narrowly barred yellow-buff; uppertail brownish-black, all feathers narrowly barred buff-yellow; pale yellowish-buff below with dark brown bars, markings weaker on belly; yellow underwing rather obscurely barred, yellow undertail; long bill pointed, curved, narrow across nostrils, black; iris deep brown; legs dark grey. Female differs from male in having black malar heavily streaked white , never any hint of red on nape  . Juvenile duller and browner, with less barring above, broader markings below.

Systematics History

Formerly separated in monotypic genus Nesoceleus. Monotypic.




Cuba (distribution now very patchy).


Prefers rather open woodland and pasture with palms, in both dry and wetter habitats; occurs to lesser extent also in denser woodland. Closely associated with palm trees, especially Saval parviflora.



Diet and Foraging

Insects, worms, grubs, seeds. Forages singly, also in pairs when breeding. Often feeds on ground , more so than local race chrysocaulosus of C. auratus; visits lawns and dusty tracks. Probes into the soil  and under leaves.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Loud “pic” series, slower and lower-pitched than C. auratus; also typical “wicka” series  , loud, nasal “ch-ch-ch” during breeding.


Mar–Jun. Solitary; locally (Zapata Swamp, in Matanzas) loosely colonial. Frequent aerial chases in courtship. Nest  excavated at relatively low height, c. 3–6 m, in dead or live palm, especially Saval parviflora, or dead tree, entrance hole averages c. 9 cm across, c. 8·5 cm tall, cavity depth 60 cm; old hole, even of another species, quite often reused. Clutch 3–5 eggs; incubation period c. 18 days; fledging period c. 22 days.

VULNERABLE. Previously listed as Endangered. Population extremely small and fragmented; maximum total estimated at 400 pairs, probably only 300, possibly even fewer. By far largest population is at Zapata Swamp, in Matanzas, where perhaps 120 pairs (occasionally in loose colonies).Was formerly widespread in Cuba, although seems never to have been very common. Declined during 20th century, and now restricted to a few small localized populations in three provinces: Pinar del Río in W Cuba, and Matanzas and Camagüey in C part of island. May still survive in several other provinces; recent record from a new locality in SE Cuba (La Platica, in Sierra Maestra) suggests that small, undiscovered populations could exist elsewhere. Extensive habitat loss resulting from clearance of forest for agricultural purposes, as well as logging, at least partly responsible for its decline, and continue to be so, but other factors may be important. Dead palms are often shared for nesting with the Near-threatened Cuban Amazon (Amazona leucocephala), and are frequently pushed over by bird-trappers in order to collect parrot nestlings; the flicker then loses both its own brood of young and a good nest-site. Hurricanes, too, can have a devastating effect on dead palms. Additional pressure comes from competition with other hole-nesting birds, especially C. auratus, Melanerpes superciliaris and Xiphidiopicus percussus; a further potential problem is nest predation by M. superciliaris, although significance of this has not been assessed. Despite efforts of Cuban government to safeguard the country’s wildlife, including creation of many reserves, funding has proved very difficult; Zapata Swamp an important reserve, but resources for ensuring its effective protection are totally inadequate. Conservation measures proposed include the displaying of posters in villages in areas where the species still exists, aimed at raising awareness of the plight of this rare woodpecker. Additional measures are implementation of a nestbox scheme in known nesting areas, and census of all current and former sites where it is known to have bred in order to determine its exact range and status. Detailed study of its feeding and nesting requirements also considered desirable.

Distribution of the Fernandina's Flicker - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Fernandina's Flicker

Recommended Citation

Winkler, H. and D. A. Christie (2020). Fernandina's Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.ferfli1.01