Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

A bird with heavily barred back, red patch on the back of the head and a black moustache rests on a lawn.

Birds Home


The northern flicker is an unusual woodpecker in that it spends much of its time foraging for food, primarily ants and beetles, on the ground rather than in trees. Their bills are not the typical strong, straight chisels of other woodpeckers, but slightly curved and pointed, which is a better tool for probing crevices more efficiently.

Like other woodpeckers, however, they do excavate their own nest cavities in trees.

Look for flickers in semi-open areas and along roads in forested areas. They are often seen along gravel roads, where ants are common. As you approach them, they will flush off the road edge showing a white rump patch. They are relatively common in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, but their populations may be declining across their North American range.

Fascinating Facts

  • Woodpecker egg shells are white, rather than mottled or colored. This is probably due to the nest being hidden within a dark tree cavity making camouflage unneeded.


  • Key ID Features: Both sexes are similar being primarily brown with bars on top and spots on breast. Males have a black moustache.
  • Present in Park: Late February through October. Found throughout the park in open woodlands.
  • Habitat: Flickers are found in forests, open forests, city parks, and wooded neighborhoods. Nests are in excavated cavities.
  • Voice: A harsh "chew" at intervals. A faster "chew-chew-chew-chew...". Listen to their call

Last updated: December 28, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1 day, often sooner.

Contact Us