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Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides) on top of cactus.jpg
Gilded flicker (Colaptes chrysoides),
a typical flicker
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Picidae
Subfamily: Picinae
Genus: Colaptes
Vigors, 1825
About one dozen species


Colaptes is the genus of woodpeckers which contains the flickers. The scientific name means "the pecker", Latinized from the Greek verb kolápto (κολάπτω), "to peck".

One well-known member of this genus is the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), a subspecies of which is known in parts of the southern U.S. as the "Yellowhammer". It is the state bird of Alabama, and the state's nickname is the "Yellowhammer State".

Colaptes woodpeckers typically have a brown or green back and wings with black barring, and a beige to yellowish underside, with black spotting or barring. There are usually colorful markings on the head. Many of these birds – particularly the northerly species – are more terrestrial than usual among woodpeckers.

Systematics and evolution[edit]

The genus Colaptes belongs to the diverse tribe Picini[citation needed], which is included in the Malarpicini by some authors. Regardless, their tribe contains mostly mid-sized and often rather terrestrial woodpeckers with typically greenish or brownish wings, but also some large and dark forms e.g. in the genus Dryocopus. The rather closely related genus Picus can be considered the Old World ecomorphological equivalent of Colaptes; it is the type genus of the tribe Picini (if valid), the true woodpecker subfamily (Picinae), the family of woodpeckers and relatives (Picidae), as well as the suborder (Pici) and entire order (Piciformes) of increasingly more distant woodpecker relatives up to and including the puffbirds (Galbulidae). Picus is not as closely related to the flickers as is the genus Piculus, however, which have a more conventional lifestyle and forage on the ground less often.[1]

Colaptes can be divided into two groups: The typical flickers (subgenus Colaptes) are slender and more terrestrial species with usually solid-colored tops of the heads. They occur all over the Americas except in the polar regions. The forest flickers (subgenus Chrysoptilus) are more arboreal species; almost all of them have a red nape and a different-colored crown. They are found in South America; a group of five species, formerly placed in Piculus, ranges via the Mesoamerican Cordillera north to Mexico.[1]

The genus probably evolved a few million years ago, around the Miocene/Pliocene boundary or somewhat earlier. The fossil specimen DMNH 1262 from the Early Pliocene (about five million years ago), found near Ainsworth, Nebraska (U.S.), is a right ulna which is almost complete, with only the tips damaged. It seems to be either from a basal Colaptes or a genus of Picini (or Malarpicini) closely related to it and resembles the ulna of forest flickers more than that of typical flickers, suggesting that it was from a bird that was not as terrestrial as the modern-day subgenus Colaptes.[2]

An undescribed Pleistocene fossil flicker from the Bahamas belongs to the subgenus Colaptes judging from biogeography; it was probably close to C. fernandinae, perhaps to C. auratus.


The extinct Guadalupe red-shafted flicker (Colaptes auratus rufipileus)
The green-barred woodpecker (Colaptes melanochloros), a forest flicker
The golden-olive woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus) was formerly placed in Piculus

Subgenus Colaptes (typical flickers)

  • Northern flicker, Colaptes auratus. The binomen (species name) is from the Latin root aurat-, meaning "gold" or "golden".
    • Eastern yellow-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus auratus
    • Western red-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus cafer
    • Colaptes auratus collaris
    • Boreal red-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus luteus
    • Cuban yellow-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus chrysocaulosus
    • Grand Cayman yellow-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus gundlachi
    • Mexican red-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus mexicanus
    • Guatemalan red-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus mexicanoides
    • Guadalupe red-shafted flicker, Colaptes auratus rufipileusextinct (c. 1906). May be invalid. One of the extant red-shafted subspecies colonized Guadalupe Island in 1996.
  • Campo flicker, Colaptes campestris. Campestris is Latin for "of the fields" and refers to the species' favorite habitat, open grassland.
    • Pampas flicker, Colaptes campestris campestroides. Considered by some authorities to be a separate species.
  • Gilded flicker, Colaptes chrysoides. Chrysoides means "like gold".
    • Cape gilded flicker, Colaptes chrysoides chrysoides
    • Brown gilded flicker, Colaptes chrysoides brunnescens
    • Mearns' gilded flicker, Colaptes chrysoides mearnsi
    • Colaptes chrysoides tenebrosus
  • Fernandina's flicker, Colaptes fernandinae. An endangered species native to Cuba. Fernandina was an early name for Cuba.
  • Bermuda flicker, Colaptes oceanicus. An extinct species known from fossil remains of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene deposits of Bermuda. Might have survived until the 17th century.
  • Chilean flicker, Colaptes pitius. The species name derives from the bird's characteristic call, which is "pitiu-pitiu-pitiu".
  • Andean flicker, Colaptes rupicola. Rupicola is Latin for "rock-dweller".

Subgenus Chrysoptilus (forest flickers)

  • Black-necked woodpecker, Colaptes atricollis. Atricollis is Latin for "dark-necked".
  • Green-barred woodpecker, Colaptes melanochloros. Melanochloros comes from the Greek words melanos, meaning "black", and chloros, meaning "pale green", the principal colors of this bird.
  • Golden-breasted woodpecker, Colaptes melanolaimus. Previously considered a subspecies of the green-barred woodpecker.
  • Spot-breasted woodpecker, Colaptes punctigula. Punctigula comes from the Latin adjective punctatus, meaning "spotted", and the Latin noun gula, meaning "throat".
  • Black-crowned woodpecker, Colaptes atriceps (formerly in Piculus).
  • Grey-crowned woodpecker, Colaptes auricularis (formerly in Piculus). Auricularis is Latin for "eared", an appearance created by the confluent, fine patterning of the bird's head.
  • Crimson-mantled woodpecker, Colaptes rivolii (formerly in Piculus). Rivolii is in honor of the French ornithologist Francois Victor Massena, second Duke of Rivoli and third Prince of Essling.
  • Golden-olive woodpecker, Colaptes rubiginosus (formerly in Piculus). Rubiginosus is Latin for "full of rust", describing the color of the bird's wings and back.
  • Bronze-winged woodpecker, Colaptes aeruginosus (formerly in Piculus). Considered by some authorities to be a subspecies of the golden-olive woodpecker.


  1. ^ a b Benz, Brett W.; Robbins, Mark B.; Peterson, A. Townsend (2006). "Evolutionary history of woodpeckers and allies (Aves: Picidae): Placing key taxa on the phylogenetic tree" (PDF). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 40 (#2): 389–399. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.021. PMID 16635580. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-17.
  2. ^ Wetmore, Alexander (1931). "Record of an Unknown Woodpecker from the Lower Pliocene" (PDF). Condor. 33 (#6): 255–256. doi:10.2307/1363695.