The northern flicker, Colaptes auratus, is a member of the Picidae or woodpecker family. Although you could say that they are the odd member of the family. It is rare to see flickers clinging to the side of a tree drilling into the wood in search of bugs like most other woodpeckers. You are much more likely to flush one from the ground. Northern flickers prefer to hunt for insects on the ground, especially beetles and ants. They often use their curved beak to drill down into the ground in search of ant or other insect larva. They will also eat seeds and berries. Because most of their food source is not available in the winter they are also one of the few woodpeckers that migrate from the northern portions of their range. There are two subspecies of northern flicker, the yellow shafted and the red shafted. They used to be considered different species but since they do frequently hybridize with each other where their ranges cross they are now considered the same species. The yellow-shafted northern flicker is found in the eastern half of North America. If you have the ability to look at the feather shafts of the yellow-shafted flicker you would see that they are indeed yellow, see the photo above, as is the underside of the tail feathers.
Northern flickers found in the western portions of North America are usually members of the red-shafted subspecies. As their name would suggest they have red feather shafts and red on the underside of their tail feathers. Red-shafted flickers will also occasionally hybridize with gilded flickers which are found mostly in Arizona, southern California, and Mexico. This red-shafted flicker was photographed at the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico.
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