Northern Flicker Male Vs Female: Complete Difference Explained

Northern Flicker Male Vs Female

If you have ever found yourself walking through an open field or a yard or some woodlands, then we pray you to catch sight of our subject for today: the northern flicker, scientifically called Colaptes auratus. 

They are unique birds belonging to the woodpecker family and are endemic to all parts of North America. 

Unlike their cousins in the woodpecker family, they can be seen foraging for food mostly on the ground, looking for their favorite meal, insects.

The most wonderful thing about them is definitely their varied and patterned plumage, which is just the most beautiful sight to see. 

With shades of red, peach, blue, and yellow all playing along with its gray spotted belly – they are a sight to behold. 

For the untrained area, differentiating between a male and a female northern flicker might be hard work, but fear not since we are going to tell you how today! 

So without further ado, let us get into the differences between a male and a female northern flicker!

Male vs. Female Northern Flicker Differences: An Overview

AppearanceHas a red or black facial stripe like a mustache.Lacks the red or black mustache-like facial stripe.
SizeTypically weigh a little and are largerSmaller in length, and weigh less.
BehaviorHighly territorial; perform elaborate dances to keep outsiders away.Less territorial, observe the defense, and do not participate.
DietPrimary food is insects like ants, flies, moths, beetles, snails, and butterflies. Also eat berries, nuts, etc.Primary food is insects like ants, flies, moths, beetles, snails, and butterflies. Also eat berries, nuts, etc.
VocalizationsHighly vocal; the main call is a loud piercing rattle that lasts 7-8 seconds.Slightly less vocal; long calls with individual notes that sound like “klee-yar
Nesting Takes on the heavier toll of work when excavating for their nestTends to start off minimal but will contribute more when the nest nears completion
Egg IncubationShared incubation, males are responsible for overnight dutiesShared incubation; lasts around eleven days.
BroodingMain duty is to defend their territory and keep the new family safeBrooding is their main responsibility once the eggs hatch
LifespanAbout 8 yearsAbout 8 years

Male vs. Female Northern Flicker: Appearance Differences

The difference in appearance between a male and a female northern flicker is the main way to distinguish between the two. 

Though this difference might not be as clear as day from afar, it is not too hard to find if you look for it! 

Males of the “yellow-shafted” variety have a red nape, a black bib, a spotted bellow, and yellow-colored shafts on their underside. 

These shafts are red in the red-shafted variety. They also have darker coloring on the top of their tails, which shifts into a white rump that becomes conspicuous when they fly.

Females, on the other hand, look pretty similar and sport the same red nape, peachy gray face, and buffy yellow shafts in the yellow-shafted variety. 

But in both red and yellow-shafted varieties, the males have a mustache-like black facial stripe at the base of their beak, which the females do not have. That is the primary difference in appearance between them.

Northern Flicker Male Vs Female: Size, Weight, And Lifespan

When looking at their size disparities, the females tend to be slightly smaller in length when compared to males and also weigh less. 

An average adult northern flicker measures about 11- 14 inches in length and weighs anywhere between 3 and 6 ounces. They also have an impressive wingspan of about 21 inches.

As for their lifespan, both male and female northern flickers are observed to live up to roughly 8 years. 

The highest recorded lifespan is about 9 years and 2 months, though this is certainly an exception. 

Research done into their mortality rates showed that 0.6 percent of the 300 birds observed, with the data showing no disparity between male and female lifespans.

Northern Flicker: Male Vs Female Diet Difference

Outliers in their family for their hunting behavior, northern flickers forage on the ground, probing and poking with their beaks to find their favorite meal, insects! 

Though they do eat a variety of food like fruits, berries, nuts, acorns, and so on, they have a special place in their heart for some good old ants! 

A crazy fact for you is that ants make up about half of their entire diet. 

Apart from ants, they feed on a vast menu of insects including flies, moths, beetles, snails, butterflies, and even insect larvae.

Northern Flicker Male Vs Female: Nesting Duty And Behavior

When preparing for the coming breeding season, the male and female northern flickers scour forested areas and woodland habitats, looking for the perfect tree to excavate and turn into their home. 

Northern flickers prefer excavating their own home themselves, though they have been observed to make use of abandoned nesting sites. 

The excavation is a shared duty between the sexes, though the males have been observed to take the heavier toll more often. 

The females also tend to increase their workload when the excavation is nearing completion.

Their nests have entrance holes roughly 2 – 6 inches wide, into which a clutch of about 6 to 8 glossy, pure white eggs are laid. 

Incubation is another shared responsibility and lasts for about 11 days. 

Once the egg hatches, the hatchlings are brooded by both male and female flickers for about 4 days, after which the female takes on the brooding responsibility while the male protects her and their offspring.

Northern Flicker Male Vs Female Vocal/Speech/Calls Difference

Male and female northern flickers are both highly vocal birds, but the males tend to be a little louder and are the more predominant vocalizer of the two. 

They both have a distinctive range of songs and calls that include tapping, drumming, and loud rattling notes. 

The drumming and tapping sounds are a way these birds mark their territories. Their main call is a loud “ki-ki-ki-ki” or individual notes that sound like “klee-yer”. 


That was a little bit about these beautifully plumaged, wonderfully vocal birds. Northern flickers are an exception among woodpeckers for many reasons, and they have a fascinating world of knowledge within them. 

We hope you enjoyed this little venture into their world, and that you learned something new!

Thank you for reading!

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