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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Flicker -- Colaptes auratus
(formerly Common Flicker)

RANGE: Breeds from central Alaska, northern Manitoba, north-central Quebec, and Newfoundland south throughout most of North America and northwestern Mexico. Winters from southern Canada south through the breeding range.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Commonly found near large trees in open woodlands, fields, meadows, and deserts throughout North America. In winter, occasionally seeks shelter in coniferous forests or in swamps.


NEST: Prefers to nest near the top of broken-off stubs of dead trees in open country or in sparsely wooded parklike suburban areas. Also nests in and around openings in extensive forested areas. Excavates nests in dead or live trees of many species, including aspen, cottonwood, oak, willow, sycamore, pine, and juniper.

FOOD: Searches for food, much of the time, on the ground. Consumes a diet that is about 60 percent animal food; of this, nearly 75 percent is ants. (Some flicker stomachs have contained over 2,000 ants.) The diet also includes other insects, weed seeds, cultivated grain, and the fruits of shrubs and trees.

REFERENCES: Bailey and Niedrach 1965, Beal 1911, Conner et al. 1975, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Lawrence 1967, Thomas et al. 1979.

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