Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus


Northern Flicker
The male of the western Red-shafted form of the Northern Flicker, shown above and in the two below, has a red malar stripe or mustache, and the linings of the wings and underparts of the tail are reddish. By contrast, the eastern Yellow-shafted male has yellow in the underwing and tail, a black malar stripe, and a red crescent on the nape, where the western male is plain. I don't have a picture of a pure Yellow-shafted, but see further down the page for several intergrade birds mixing Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted characteristics.


Northern Flicker


Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker
The female Red-shafted, above and the two below, has no malar stripe; the Yellow-shafted female has none either,
but does have a red nape crescent, where this Red-shafted female is plain gray.


Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers, here a Red-shafted female, differ from most woodpeckers in that they do a lot of their foraging on the ground.


Northern Flicker
The reddish wing linings of this western female (yellow in eastern birds) are a sure identifier of a flicker in flight; the white patch on the rump is another good mark for both forms of the species.


Northern Flicker
Above and below, a Red-shafted pair mating.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker
There is extensive interbreeding of the Red- and Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers where their nesting areas overlap in the central states, and as a result there are many intergrade birds showing features of both types throughout North America. The male above, photographed at my backyard fountain, had the black malar and red nape crescent of the eastern type, but the reddish undertail of the western.


Northern Flicker
Male intergrades, above and below, show the red nape crescent and yellow undertail
of the eastern type, but have the western red malar stripe, where the eastern male's
would be black. 


Northern Flicker


Northern Flicker
This female intergrade has western red undertail feathers, but an eastern red nape crescent.


Northern Flicker
This male Red-shafted at the nest shows, in closeup,  the gray cheek and brown forecrown typical of western birds. On the Yellow-shafted, there is usually more brown on the face, and somewhat more gray in the crown.