SCIENTIFIC NAME: Colaptes auratus
OTHER NAMES: Yellow-shafted flicker, red-shafted flicker, common flicker.
STATUS: Breeder. Fairly common to uncommon in all seasons and regions. Designated the official state bird by the Alabama Legislature. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.
DESCRIPTION: The northern flicker is Alabama’s state bird where it is often referred to as the “Yellow-hammer. The name Yellow-hammer comes from a term that was applied to a company of young cavalry soldiers from Huntsville. They were called the yellowhammer company because of the brilliant yellow bits of cloth on the sleeves, collars, and coattails of their new uniforms.
There are two different subspecies of the northern or common flicker: Colaptes auratus auratus (yellow-shafted) and Colaptes auratus cafer (red-shafted). Both subspecies are brown-and-black barred on the back and wings, and a buff-colored or whitish breast with black spots. A wide black necklace is also characteristic of both subspecies. Northern flicker’s have a conspicuous white rump that can be seen when the bird is in its deeply undulating flight.
The yellow-shafted flicker has a red patch on the nape of the neck. They have a gray crown. Under the tail and wings, a bright yellow can be seen giving the flicker the name yellow-shafted. The males have a black mustache or line at the base of the bill.
The red-shafted flicker has a brown crown and doesn’t possess the red patch on the nape of the neck. Red-shafted flickers are reddish under the tail and wings. Also, the males have a red mustache.