Fri Mar 2023

Northern Flicker*

Although these distinctive, medium-to-large woodpeckers are common and widespread in eastern North America, only rarely do I see them, perhaps one or two every few years towards the end of July. This is a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, so-called because of a yellow shaft along the edge of its primary wings, as well as yellow under its wings and tail. The very similar Red-shafted is found further to the west.

We know this is a male because of the black bar on its cheek, known as a “malar.” Both male and female have a distinctive red crescent on the back, or nape, of their necks.

Unlike most woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker forages on the ground, feeding mostly on ants and other insects, but also taking seeds and berries, especially in winter. This is a beautiful bird. In flight, its white rump and yellow underwing produce a dramatic visual effect (the white rump also suggesting to me an airborne cottontail rabbit).