Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus Scientific name definitions

Karen L. Wiebe and William S. Moore
Version: 2.0 — Published July 7, 2023


Field Identification

A large woodpecker (length 28–31 cm, mass 130 g). Generally grayish brown above with irregular transverse dark-brown bars (making the species cryptic on the ground), off-white below with numerous black spots (2–5 mm) and a black crescent on the upper breast. The ventral surface of the wing and tail and the shafts of flight feathers are bright salmon red or yellow, depending on the subspecies. A white rump-patch is conspicuous in flight. The flicker is sexually dichromatic: the malar stripe (red or black) is usually present only in the male. Juvenile closely resembles adult at fledging. Plumage and size vary across subspecies; see Subspecies.

Similar Species

The Northern Flicker is very similar in appearance to the Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides). Relative to geographically close forms of the Northern Flicker (i.e., "Red-shafted" Flicker), the Gilded Flicker has remiges and rectrices yellow. The Gilded Flicker also differs in its smaller size, rustier crown, narrower dorsal barring, paler dorsum, rounder breast patch, and wider black tip to the underside of the tail (see 7).

Recommended Citation

Wiebe, K. L. and W. S. Moore (2023). Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.norfli.02