- ORDER: Piciformes
- FAMILY: Picidae
In the thorny, sun-baked Sonoran Desert, Gilded Flickers perch high above the ground on the sturdy limbs of giant saguaro or Mexican giant cardon cactus. These desert relatives of the slightly larger Northern Flicker have yellow underwings and a bright cinnamon crown. Their calls ring across the desert in the early morning. Though these woodpeckers are tightly tied to giant cactus for nesting, they forage mainly on the ground, using their long tongues to pull ants from underground colonies.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Gilded Flickers among giant saguaro and giant cardon cactus in the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern U.S. through Baja California, Mexico, up to about 3,200 feet elevation. Be aware that Northern Flickers occur here as well; Gilded is much less tolerant of disturbance, so head out into the desert on a cool morning to find them. With any flicker you see, look for Gilded’s yellow underwing tones, cinnamon crown, paler (and less strongly barred) back, and more crescent-shaped spots on the belly.
- Carpintero Californiano (Spanish)
- Pic chrysoïde (French)
- Cool Facts
- Animals living in hot environments tend to be smaller than relatives found in colder environments—a general pattern known as “Bergmann’s Rule.” Gilded Flickers, which inhabit very hot deserts and are smaller than Northern Flickers, are an example of this rule.
- Woodpeckers have long tongues that can extend several inches beyond the tip of the bill. This adaptation helps them catch small arthropods from deep recesses—in the case of flickers, often ants that are deep underground.
- European Starlings are an aggressive species that steal nest cavities from many native cavity-nesting birds. But the larger and more aggressive Gilded Flicker appears to be able to fend them off; starlings have no effect on their nesting success.
- In the 1960s, taxonomists grouped the Gilded Flicker with the “Red-shafted” and “Yellow-shafted” flickers as a single species, the Northern Flicker, in part because of extensive interbreeding. A couple of decades later, in light of only limited hybridization of the Gilded Flicker with the other forms, Gilded Flicker was re-recognized as its own species.
- The oldest recorded Gilded Flicker was at least 6 years, 4 months old and lived in Arizona.