Nature's Focus: Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker


Photos courtesy of Thomas W. Gorman

by Thomas W. Gorman

Whenever you are out walking in a park, or hiking through the woods and you come upon an open area of ground, you more than likely will spook into flight one member of the woodpecker family which forages primarily on the ground, and this species is called the Northern Flicker.  In the western United States the species is called the Red-shafted Flicker, and here in the eastern United States we have what is called the Yellow-shafted Flicker.  When they are spooked from the ground, they will fly away from you and their white rump patch and broad wings will be the key identifier as they fly into a nearby tree for protection.

The Yellow-shafted Flicker is approximately 10-13” in length with a wingspan reaching nearly 22” from tip to tip.  Its overall coloring is generally brown & soft gray with a variety of black markings throughout its plumage, and under its wings and tail it exhibits varying shades of brilliant yellow.  The nape of their neck has a brilliant red chevron shape which is preceded by a soft gray head. The male of the species has a bold black malar stripe, sometimes called a moustache, whereas the female does not.  Both male and female also have a black bib on their upper breast area.



Even though the Yellow-shafted Flicker feeds primarily on the ground in search for ants and other insects, they are also well adapted to foraging on tree trunks and large branches for other insects, as all woodpeckers do.  In the winter time it is common to see the Yellow-shafted Flicker at your back yard feeders as they also will feed on sunflower or thistle seed, fruit, berries and suet. 

For further information pertaining to this beautiful member of the woodpecker family, see: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker/id

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