Bird GuideWoodpeckersGilded Flicker

At a Glance

In its color pattern, this bird combines some elements from both the Yellow-shafted and Red-shafted forms of Northern Flicker. However, it is slightly smaller than either, and it lives in the lowlands of the southwest -- mainly in the desert, where it nests in holes in giant saguaro cactus. In a few places, Gilded Flickers overlap in breeding range with Red-shafted Flickers at middle elevations (Sonoita Creek near Patagonia, Arizona, is one good example). In such places, the Red-shafted and Gilded flickers interbreed freely, producing a summer population that is nearly all hybrids.
Picidae, Woodpeckers, Tree-clinging Birds
Low Concern
Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands
California, Southwest
Flap/Glide, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Essentially a permanent resident, with only local movements.


12" (30 cm). Bright yellow under wings and tail, but no red on back of head; gray face, with red mustache mark on male. Some intergrades between "Red-shafted" and "Yellow-shafted" flickers show similar combination, but true Gilded shows much more black on underside of tail, brighter cinnamon crown. Note: Gilded and "Red-shafted" flickers interbreed at middle elevations in Arizona (e.g., Sonoita Creek, Verde River), producing birds with intermediate markings.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Broad, Rounded, Short
Tail Shape
Multi-pointed, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A loud, repeated woika; also a loud series of kee notes.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Rattle, Scream


Deserts, riverside groves. Common in Sonoran desert, where it nests in holes in giant saguaro cactus. Also found in groves of cottonwoods and other trees along rivers and streams at low elevations.



Usually 4-5. White. Incubation is by both sexes (with male incubating at night and part of day), about 11 days.


Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Young leave nest about 4 weeks after hatching, are fed by parents at first, later following them to good foraging sites. Generally 1 brood per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by hopping on ground, climbing tree trunks and cacti, occasionally flying out to catch insects in the air.


Mostly ants and other insects. Unlike most birds (but like other flickers and several other woodpeckers), eats many ants. Also feeds on beetles, termites, caterpillars, and other insects. Eats many fruits and berries, and eats seeds and nuts at times.


Males defend nesting territory with calling, drumming, and many aggressive displays, including swinging head back and forth, flicking wings open and spreading tail to show off bright underside. Courtship displays mostly similar. Nest site is cavity in giant cactus, tree, or post. Tree cavities usually in dead wood. Cavity excavated by both sexes, typically 6-20' above ground, sometimes higher.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still fairly common, but vulnerable to loss of habitat.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Gilded Flicker. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Gilded Flicker

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.