Here’s more information about Northern Flickers, for those whose appetites have been whetted by the overview article.
Here’s a photo of a male red-shafted Northern Flicker—the most common subspecies of flicker found in our area. Click on the photo to see a larger view and use your browser’s back button to return to this page. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons–a great Web site with freely usable media files.) Females look very similar except that they lack the red malar stripe (also referred to as a “mustache).” Click here to see the red shafts of the flight and tail feathers. And here is a photo of a male and female Northern Flicker together. Even without seeing the shafts, you can tell they are the red-shafted subspecies rather than the yellow-shafted species because this male has a red malar stripe. A yellow-shafted male would have a black malar stripe.
Just to keep you on your toes, you may sometimes see a red-shafted/yellow-shafted hybrid in our area. (One winter, we had a male hybrid as a regular visitor at our feeders.) The variations can be enormous, but the fellow we saw looked like this one. He had a red malar stripe, just as a red-shafted would. But he also had red feathers on the nape of his neck. Yellow-shafteds have a red V-shaped chevron in that area, but red-shafteds don’t. This photo was taken by one of Colorado’s excellent bird photographers, Bill Schmoker.
You can hear a sample of the call and song here (scroll down just a bit to “typical voice”). First, you hear the “kleee-yer” call, followed by the soft, possibly eponymous, “wick-a, wick-a, wick-a” (or some hear “flick-a, flick-a, flick-a”). After that comes the breeding season “song” of “ki-ki-ki-ki-ki.” The final sound is the drumming of a male Northern Flicker. Since it is at a rapid pace, it is part of a territorial breeding display rather than excavating for insects—often done on a metal object such as your house gutters or a metal chimney guard for extra resonance and carrying capacity.