Colaptes auratus

Yellowhammer is also known as the Common Flicker and is the State Bird of Alabama.

The back of the male Yellowhammer is gray-brown with broken black bars on the body feathers and with the yellow shafts of the flight feathers partly visible. The rump patch is white and the two-pointed tail is mainly black. The crown and back of the neck is gray with a red band at the nape. The cheeks are pinkish-buff with a black moustache and bib below the chin on the throat. The underparts are creamy with many, irregular black spots. The undersides of the wings and tail are bright yellow. The female differs from the maile in that she does not have the moustache. Both sexes have gray legs, a dark gray bill and dark brown eyes. The talons are sharp, which helps the bird to easily perch on vertical tree trunks.

The Yellowhammer is found throughout Alabama and is present all months of the year. It is one of the more common woodpeckers. Other races of the flicker are found throughout the North American Continent. The Flicker is more terrestrial in habit than are other woodpeckers. On the ground, it has an awkward hopping movement, but this does not slow its ground feeding. It is commonly observed feeding on lawns and is perhaps the most obvious woodpecker of the city and suburban areas.

Flickers are reported to eat more ants than any other American bird. In addition, they consume most other types of insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and caterpillars. It has a special fondness for the eggs of fireants and is known to stand on an ant mound for several minutes, seemingly undisturbed by the ant bites. The flicker will also eat many types of vegetative materials including berries, nuts and seeds. The berries of poison ivy appear to be a favorite.

Photos courtesy Donna Bell, Flomaton, AL
Copyright (c) 2005 Donna Bell

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