Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus)


French: Pic doré German: Ostgoldspecht Spanish: Carpintero escapulario dorado
Other common names: Northern Flicker (when lumped with C. cafer and C. mexicanoides)

Cuculus auratus


, 1758,

South Carolina, USA


Usually treated as conspecific with C. cafer 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. cafer on account of its black vs red moustachial stripe in male (3); presence of red nape fringe (ns[2]); grey-pink vs pale grey face, neck sides, throat and upper breast (3); dull grey vs pale greyish-brown  crown (ns[2]); yellow vs  red shafts of wing and tail feathers, with yellowish vs reddish basal undertail (3); broad hybrid zone from Alaska through the Great Plains (1). Races chrysocaulosus and gundlachi are morphologically close to auratus and clearly belong with this species, although the former has been mentioned as sometimes treated as a separate species#R. Four subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. a. luteus Bangs, 1898 – C Alaska E across Canada to S Labrador and Newfoundland, and S to Montana and NE USA.
  • C. a. auratus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Yellow-shafted Flicker – SE USA (E Texas E to Virginia and Florida).
  • C. a. chrysocaulosus Gundlach, 1858 – Cuban Flicker – Cuba.
  • C. a. gundlachi Cory, 1886 – Grand Cayman I.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 30–35 cm; 106–164 g (auratus), 103–126 g (chrysocaulosus), 88 g (gundlachi). Male has grey forehead to hindneck and rear neck... read more


    Common call a descending “peah” or “klee-yer”; typical is a long series of... read more


    Broad range of habitats giving access to open ground; mainly open areas and forest edge. Primarily... 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


    Apr–Jul; from Jun in N and from Feb–Mar in far S (Caribbean); rarely, two broods reared in a season. Monogamous, apparently... read more


    Resident in C & S of range. Canadian populations migratory, as indeed 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 Caribbean, fairly common on Grand Cayman (gundlachi);... read more

    Recommended citation

    Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Yellow-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus). 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 15 December 2019).