Northern Flickers on a dark, shadowy forest floor in High Park, Toronto (July 2014, midday, minimal light).
Although it can climb up the trunks of trees and hammer on wood like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker prefers to find food on the ground. Ants are its main food, and the flicker digs in the dirt to find them. It uses its long barbed tongue to lap up the ants.
No Data Available Specimens courtesy of the Slater Museum Photo by Robert Niese
Northern Flickers occur in two color morphs across the US. In the west, they are predominantly “red-shafted,” while in the east they are predominantly “yellow-shafted.” Here in western Montana, we have mostly red-shafted, but there are a few areas that are chock-full of “orange-shafted” hybrids (the wing in the upper right is a hybrid). There are extensive hybrid zones throughout BC and AB as well.
These woodpeckers are found throughout North America. They can often be spotted on the ground, where they dig for ants and beetles, catching them with their barbed tongues. Fruits and seeds are also part of their diet, especially in the winter. Their tails and the undersides of their wings are yellow in eastern birds and red in western birds. These two groups were once considered separate species. They often hybridize where their ranges overlap.