Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes cafer)


French: Pic rosé German: Westgoldspecht Spanish: Carpintero escapulario rojizo

Picus cafer

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Cape of Good Hope; error = Bay of Good Hope, Nootka Sound, British Columbia


Usually treated as conspecific with C. auratus and C. mexicanoides owing to high level of interbreeding between taxa at their geographical boundaries, but here allowed species status on account of considerable phenotypic differences. Thus, present species differs from C. auratus in its red vs black moustachial stripe in male (3); lack of red nape fringe (ns[2]); pale grey vs grey-pink face, neck sides, throat and upper breast (3); pale greyish-brown vs dull grey crown (ns[2]); red vs yellow shafts of wing and tail feathers, with reddish vs yellowish basal undertail (3); broad hybrid zone from Alaska through the Great Plains (1). Differs from geographically and morphologically closer C. mexicanoides in its dull greenish-grey vs bold chestnut-cinnamon  crown and nape (3); in female, wholly grey face or with vague brownish base of moustachial area vs bold chestnut-cinnamon moustachial stripe on grey face (2); mantle dull brownish-grey with vague black markings vs densely and broadly barred black and cinnamon (3). Additional described races, considered to represent intergrades or otherwise inadequately differentiated, include borealis (NW to NC North America), sedentarius (Santa Cruz I, California), martirensis (San Pedro Mártir Mts, in NW Baja California) and pinicolus (highlands of El Salvador to N Nicaragua). Four extant subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. cafer (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – S Alaska and British Columbia S to N California.
  • C. c. collaris Vigors, 1829 – SW USA S to NW Baja California and W Mexico (S to about Durango).
  • C. c. rufipileus Ridgway, 1876 – Guadalupe I (off W Baja California).
  • C. c. mexicanus Swainson, 1827 – Durango E across Mexican Plateau to San Luis Potosí and S to Oaxaca.
  • C. c. nanus Griscom, 1934 – S USA (W Texas) S to NE Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 30–34 cm; 121–167 g (collaris), 105–126 g (nanus). Male has lower forehead and superciliary area cinnamon, red malar (but no red nape patch), rest of... read more


    Common call a descending “peah” or “klee-yer”; long series of up to c. 70 “whit” notes given... read more


    Mainly open areas and forest edge, especially open forest, younger (2–6 years) clear-cuts, burnt... read more

    Food and feeding

    Chiefly ants and their brood, also other insects, spiders, occasionally molluscs and crustaceans; fruits, berries and seeds also important... read more


    Fewer data available than for C. auratus. Laying Apr–Jun; rarely, two broods in a season. Monogamous, apparently pairs for life.... read more


    Mostly resident in C & S of range. Canadian populations migratory, as are many of those... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout most of range, locally very common to abundant in Canada and USA; common to fairly common in Mexico. Abundance... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes cafer). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 February 2020).