South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Length: 12.5 to 14 inches Wingspan: 19 to 21 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Dependant on form, with black or red mustache, brownish back with black bars, buffy belly with spots

Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratusTwo forms occur, the yellow-shafted and the red-shafted.  The two forms have similar bodies but different color patterns on the head.  The red-shafted is generally found in the western half of the U.S., while the yellow-shafted is generally found in the eastern half.  There is a broad zone, including South Dakota, where interbreeding between the two forms create a wide variety of intermediates.  Unlike many other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers can often be found on the ground as they feed on their favorite food, ants.

Habitat: Can be found in almost any habitat with trees, but tends to avoid dense unbroken forest. 

Diet: Mostly insects, especially ants.  Also eats fruits and berries, especially in the winter, and occasionally seeds and nuts. 

Behavior: Does much of its foraging on the ground, often in pursuit of its favorite prey, ants.  Will also forage in foliage and on branches, and will occasionally fly out to capture insects in mid-air. 

Nesting: Late May through mid-July

Song: Northern Flicker Song, also Northern Flicker Call

Migration: Flickers in northern part of their range (Canada, northern U.S.) do migrate, but some overwinter in the state.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Northern Flicker sightings

Similar Species: Generally distinctive

Bird Feeders: Will attend feeders for suet, nuts, and fruits.

Birdhouses: Will use appropriately sized nest boxes.

Conservation Status: Indications are that Northern Flickers have declined in recent decades, likely in response to competition for nesting cavities with European Starlings.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Northern Flicker.

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Northern Flicker"

3) Northern Flicker

Photo Information: November 2004 - Brandon, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Northern Flicker photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident.  Uncommon winter resident.