Gilded Flicker

Male Gilded Flickers sport a red moustache

I once visited a church in Mexico where workers on scaffolding were hammering paper thin sheets of gold onto the interior walls, “gilding” them. Gilded Flicker have similar glory hidden away on the undersides of their wings. This is a flamboyantly colored bird, and the beautiful yellow undersides of the wings and tail are only part of the story. 

We commonly see these large woodpeckers on the ground in our yard in the warm season. They visit us because of our ants, ants being their favorite food.  That makes Gilded Flickers one of my favorite birds! These residents of the Sonoran Desert typically live near saguaro cacti, where they excavate their cavity nests. 

In April the female lays 3-4 eggs inside the cool, dim, unlined nest. The parents take turns incubating and later feeding the young. After about a month the meal train stops, forcing the young out of the nest and into the practice of finding their own food.

Last November I looked out the window and saw two Gilded Flickers on the ground in the backyard. They were dancing, stretching their necks to the sky and then bowing to each other and shuffling in circles together. I grabbed my camera and took some pictures through the glass – they are not great photos. But they captured this play time the two birds were enjoying. After the dance they took turns hiding behind a pot or a plant and then popping out to startle the other, a combination of hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo. 

In the winter when ants and other insects are not active Gilded Flickers eat winter fruits and seeds. They are closely related to the more widespread Northern Flicker. 

The dance
Female Gilded Flicker calls

The call of the Gilded Flicker rings loud and clear across the desert.

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