By Mitchell Marks, Wildlife Biologist
The yellow-shafted flicker has a gray-brown back with broken black bars. It has a white rump patch that can be seen easily when flying away and has a two-pointed black tail. The crown and neck are gray with a red bar on the nape. The male sports a black moustache that is not found on the female. Its belly and breast are cream colored with irregular black spots. This flicker is found throughout Alabama inhabiting cities and suburban areas as well as rural areas. Like other woodpeckers, they feed on insects under the bark of dead or dying trees. They also feed more readily on the ground than other woodpeckers where ants make up the majority of their diet. They also eat seeds, nuts and berries. They hop along on the ground, looking and listening for food. When in flight, they “lope” along, in a bouncing form of flight.
Nesting typically begins in April in Alabama, but will be seasonally later for more northern breeding latitudes. Females lay 6 to 10 white colored eggs typically in the cavity of a dead tree, but have been known to use nest boxes. They have also been known to nest in building roofs, cliffs and earthen banks. Once the young hatch, both parents take part in caring for and feeding of the young. Young are capable of flight in about three weeks. Like other animals, they are susceptible to predation from owls, hawks and snakes, but because they feed readily on the ground, they have to also be vigilant against mammal predators such as feral cats, foxes and bobcats.