The Flicker’s “Valentine”

Attract Flickers to your feeder with suet.

This fun photo was posted on our Facebook wall by our fan Tina Abell. “A daily visitor at my suet feeder…wearing a valentine,” Tina wrote in the caption. The patch of red on the back of the neck is not only a “valentine,” as Tina pointed out. The red spot further identifies the bird.

This woodpecker is one-of-a-kind. The polka dot pattern on the breast makes it easy to identify the flicker. There are two types of flickers, including the Red-shafted Flicker and the Yellow-shafted Flicker. You can read more about their behavior here on our Wild Bird Blog.

The Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted woodpeckers look almost identical. So how can you tell them apart? Look for the spot of red on the back of the head. Even when the flicker is perched on a feeder, like in Tina’s photo, you can identify the species. First, look for the coloring under the wings. Then, look for any distinct markings on the head, including on the back of the nape and next to the bill.

Although it seems backwards, the Yellow-shafted Flicker has a red spot on the back of their head. This is known as a red crescent. And the Red-shafted? Their red spot is in front. Look for the red malar (pronounced mae-ler), or “moustache.” The malar looks like a dribble of red paint next to and slightly below their bill. Even though both species have red on their head, the red is in different spots. Based on this information, we can identify the bird featured in Tina’s photo above.

There’s a red patch on the back of the head. This means, we’re looking at the Yellow-shafted Flicker. To be sure, let’s look under the wings. What color do you see? Thin lines of yellow. When this bird takes off, you can see a broad swath of yellow covering the wing underparts. What a sight to see! We also know this bird is female, since there’s no malar next to the bill. The malar, when present, appears on both sides of the bill. On the Yellow-shafted, the male would have a black malar. Thank you, Tina, for sharing this photo with us. Enjoy the Yellow-shafted Flicker at your feeder!

Did you know? Flickers, like the one shown above, are known to forage for insects on the ground. Yet woodpeckers prefer eating suet when natural food sources aren’t available. Discover over 89 tail prop suet feeders at You can attract flickers, too. Photo credit by Tina Abell. Happy Birding!

Written by Dawn Coutu



“Northern Flicker,” All About Birds. Cornell University, 2015. 10 Nov. 2017: <>.

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