This is a very distinctive bird, and one that many people are surprised to find near them. You might glimpse its gentle expression and handsome plumage if you accidentally spook one off the ground, where they are typically found catching ants and beetles with their tongues. Not what you’d expect from a large woodpecker!
The brilliant yellow flash of the bird in flight comes from the intensely yellow shafts of its feathers. In the West, the red-shafted subspecies (C. a. cafer) instead has red shafts, though the two subspecies frequently hybridize where their ranges overlap from Alaska to Texas. In flight, a distinctive white rump patch also gives the ID away.