What Do Northern Flicker Calls Sound Like: Song & Sounds

Red-shafted Flicker
Northern Flickers sound similar to other Woodpeckers. Their birdsong sounds like a rolling rattle that lasts 7-8 seconds. In addition to birdcalls, Northern Flickers communicate by drumming on trees or metal. These large birds have distinct markings that set them apart from other Woodpeckers. 

Northern Flickers sound like ‘kyeer’ or ‘ki ki ki’ when singing. They are also known for drumming on dead trees or metal surfaces to communicate or to establish breeding territory.

What Is The Call Of A Northern Flicker?

The Northern Flicker call is a loud sing note sounding like ‘kyeer.’ This call lasts around half a second. They also make a ‘ki ki ki ki’ laugh. When flickers are close together, they talk to each other with a quiet ‘wick-a, wikc-a’ call.

Northern Flickers also make a loud, rolling rattle lasting 7-8 seconds. This piercing bird call rises and falls in volume and pitch several times. It sounds similar to the Pileated Woodpecker. Northern Flickers make this sound during the spring when forming pairs and establishing nesting territories.

In addition to these bird sounds, Northern Flickers communicate with their drumming of trees or metal. They drum or peck a tree striking the tree 25 times in one second. Northern Flickers drum, pause, and then drum again. Northern Flickers drum to establish territory, defend territory, or communicate with other birds.

Northern flicker call

What Does A Northern Flicker Eat?

Northern Flickers eat mainly insects. During the winter, they eat fruit and seeds. Flickers seek out ants underground by hammering the soil just as they would peck into a tree.

Their tongues can extend 2 inches past the end of their bill to reach bugs inside the ground or in trees. They forage for insects on the ground, eating alongside sparrows or blackbirds.

Northern Flickers excavate holes in dead trees or diseased tree trunks. They use these trees for nesting sites as well as sources of insects. They reuse nest sites from year to year, sometimes building in old nest cavities of Belted Kingfishers or Bank Swallows. Their nests sit 6-15 feet off the ground.

What Is The Difference Between A Northern Flicker And A Woodpecker?

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a type of Woodpecker. Northern Flickers are medium-sized birds native to North America and one of the migratory Woodpecker species. Other Woodpeckers in the same family include the Gilded Flicker, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the Downy Woodpecker. Common names for the Northern Flicker include:

  • Yellowhammer
  • Gawker Bird
  • Gaffer Woodpecker
  • Harry-wicket
  • Yarrup

Many of these names originate from the sounds the Northern Flicker makes. The Northern Flicker is actually the state bird of Alabama.

There are two types of Northern Flickers: the Yellow-shafted Flicker and the Red-shafted Flicker. Though once thought of as separate species, these varieties are now both classified as Northern Flickers.

The Yellow-shafted Flicker is common in the eastern and northern US. The Red-shafted Flicker is common in the western US and Mexico. The Yellow-shafted and the Red-shafted interbreed in the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, where their territories overlap.

Yellow-shafted Flicker flying in the blue sky
Yellow-shafted Flicker

Is The Northern Flicker Rare?

No, the Northern Flicker is not rare. Sometimes it is referred to as the Common Flicker and is found throughout North America. Northern Flickers are larger birds, 11-14 inches in length.

They have a wingspan of 17-21 inches. Northern Flickers have black bars on their back and a noticeable white rump when they fly. They also have a black crescent on their chest.

The Yellow-shafted Flicker is a brown bird with a black bib and black spots. Male Yellow-shafted Flickers have a black whisker down the side of their face and yellows shafts on their flight and tail feathers. 

Red-shafted Flickers have a red whisker and brownish-gray upperparts. Male Red-shafted Flickers have red shafts on their flight and tail feathers. Interbreeds have a mixture of both colorings with orange on their flight feathers.

northern flicker sound near a nest
Red-shafted Flicker

How Do I Attract Northern Flickers To My Yard?

In order to attract Northern Flickers, provide them with shelter, food, and water. Because they are a common North American Woodpecker, it’s easy to attract these backyard birds. Northern Flickers need:

Nest boxes

Provide Northern Flickers with a place to nest—either a man-made nest box or a tree cavity. Their breeding season is from February to July. Females and males work together to raise young, and juveniles stay in the nest for about a month after hatching.


Northern Flickers love suet, sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and berries. Including fruit bushes or bird feeders will provide Northern Flickers with their favorite foods.

Bird Bath

Northern Flickers need sources of water. You can also consider heating your bird bath in winter if you feel it is safe to do so, with the proper precautions in place.


Sarah enjoys feeding hummingbirds in the warmer months, and a range of finches, woodpeckers, and cardinals in the cooler months. She enjoys researching and learning more about birds, gardening, and preserving food. She is learning how to maximize her small city backyard and is amazed at all the possibilities. She lives in southwestern Indiana with her family.

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