top of page

Northern Flicker

Scientific Name:

Colaptes auratus




Open woodlands, city parks, and western mountains


Common through North America


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Northern flickers are members of the woodpecker family, and can often be found drumming on tree limbs. Flickers are large (about 12 inches) brown birds with a black bib and spots or scalloped black feathers on their chest and a bright white rump. The feather shafts are very bright and can be seen in flight. While the red-shafted flicker is more common in the west, and the yellow-shafted flicker is more common in the east, they are not separate species and instead both northern flicker subspecies.

Fast Facts:

  • While flickers are commonly seen in trees, they spend a great deal of time on the ground eating insects. Flickers eat ants more often than most other US birds.

  • Flickers will scratch and dig on the ground (or in cow patties) for insects. They have a tongue that can dart out 2 inches past their bill! And they use their long,  barbed tongue to slurp up ants and other insects. In the winter they will eat berries, sunflower seeds and thistle.

  • Drumming is not only a way to pick bugs off of bark, but it is also a form of communication, and that is why they will also drum on metal.

  • While northern flickers are listed as Least Concern, the lowest level on the IUCN Red List, it should be noted that their populations have declined by 49% from 1966-2012.

  • While there is some variation in location between the red-shafted and the yellow-shafted flickers (both subspecies), they can be found from as far north as Alaska, south to Central America, and from the pacific west coast of California to as far to the east as Cuba.

  • Flickers can be found in any of the Truckee Meadows' parks where there is a mixture of trees and open areas for foraging.



Regina Hockett (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

bottom of page