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Gilded Flicker Life History


DesertsIn the United States, Gilded Flickers occur in Sonoran Desert with giant cactus species such as the giant saguaro, at elevations ranging from 200 to 3,200 feet (with exceptional records to 4,600 feet). In parts of Mexico, they also use areas with Mexican giant cardon cactus. Most nest cavities are excavated in giant cactus, but some have been found in willow or cottonwood.Back to top


InsectsGilded Flickers feed on ants and their larvae which are captured on the ground. They may forage for several hours at a single ant colony. They also eat beetles and other insects. Like Northern Flickers, they use their long tongues to lap up the insects. In winter when insects are scarce, Gilded Flickers include seeds and fruits in their diet, especially the fruit of large cacti.Back to top


Nest Placement

CavityThe nest cavity is typically in a giant cactus, much less frequently in cottonwood or willow, and often oriented toward the north-northwest. Nests are normally about 20 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

Nest cavities have no lining or materials at the bottom. The entrance hole averages about 2.8 inches in diameter, while the cavity itself averages 5 inches across and 14.8 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:4-5 eggs
Egg Length:1.0-1.2 in (2.59-3.14 cm)
Egg Width:0.8-0.9 in (2-2.22 cm)
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless.
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Ground ForagerThe behavior of Gilded Flickers has not been studied in detail, but it seems broadly similar to the well-studied Northern Flicker. In Northern Flickers, rival males often perform a precise stylized “fencing match,” in which they call, duel with their bills, swing their heads back and forth and up and down, and raise their wings. If a female appears to watch them, the display intensifies, though neither male will attack the other. Mated pairs perform similar displays periodically.Back to top



Gilded Flicker populations have been stable or slightly declining since 1968, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 770,000 individuals. Gilded Flicker rates a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and is on the Yellow Watch List for species with declining populations. At the current rate of decline, the species will lose another half of its breeding population by 2053. Declines in population reflect the massive loss of desert habitat to development, especially in the twentieth century, when saguaro and riparian forests were removed to build and expand cities. Brush fires that kill saguaros also reduce habitat for Gilded Flickers.

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Hudon, J., R. J. Driver, N. H. Rice, T. L. Lloyd-Evans, J. A. Craves, and D. P. Shustack (2017). Diet explains red flight feathers in Yellow-shafted Flickers in eastern North America. Auk 134(1):22–33.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Moore, William S., Peter Pyle and Karen L. Wiebe. (2017). Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides), version 2.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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