McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

PHOTO LIBRARY

Northern Flicker / Pic flamboyant (Colaptes auratus)

Seasonal status at MBO:

JAN
       
FEB
       
MAR
       
APR
       
MAY
       
JUN
       
JUL
       
AUG
       
SEP
       
OCT
       
NOV
       
DEC
       
  common
  fairly common
  uncommon
  rare
  occasional
  no records
 
QUICK TIPS:
1) Sex can be determined by the moustachial region - on males it is black (or orange in juveniles), while on females it is uniformly beige with the rest of the face

2) In summer to early fall, check the length of p10 - in juveniles only it extends >17 mm beyond the primary coverts

3) Look for moult limits among the primary coverts:
  
 - in HY/SY birds they are uniform but somewhat paler than the greater coverts
    - in SY/TY birds the outermost 1-5 coverts are fresh and dark brown, while the remainder are uniformly paler brown
    - in ASY/ATY birds they are uniformly fresh and dark brown OR irregularly fresh/dark and worn/brown

4) Look for moult limits among the greater coverts - on HY/SY birds there is a contrast between replaced inner coverts that are longer and with narrower black bands and shorter outer coverts with broad black bands; on older birds all greater coverts are uniform with relatively narrow black bands

5) Check iris colour - usually grayish-brown for HY/SY birds and deep red in ASY/ATY birds; this is particularly helpful in separating birds that have uniform primary coverts.

Note that woodpeckers can be confusing as individuals can be recognized as SY throughout the calendar year, but with different characteristics before/after their prebasic moult; be sure to take the timing of moult (late summer / early fall) into account

Ageing and sexing overview:

January - August:

ATY - M
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown feathers OR are uniformly dark brown and fresh. Iris deep red.  Black moustache present.

ATY - F
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown feathers OR are uniformly dark brown and fresh. Iris deep red. Moustache region uniform in colour with the rest of the face.

     

TY - M
Consecutive outer primary coverts dark brown and fresh, all other retained primary coverts pale brown and abraded.  Iris deep red. Black moustache present.

TY - F
Consecutive outer primary coverts dark brown and fresh, all other retained primary coverts pale brown and abraded.  Iris deep red. Moustache region uniform in colour with the rest of the face.

SY - M
Primary coverts uniformly faded brown.  Iris gray/brown through January. Black moustache present.

   

SY - F
Primary coverts uniformly faded brown. Iris gray/brown through January. Moustache region uniform in colour with the rest of the face.

     

-

September - December:

ASY - M
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly dark brown and fresh.  Iris deep red. Black moustache present.

     

ASY - F
Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown (worn) feathers OR are uniformly dark brown and fresh. Iris deep red. Moustache region uniform in colour with the rest of the face. 

     

SY - M
Outer consecutive primary coverts dark brown and fresh, all other retained primary coverts pale brown and abraded.  Black moustache present.

     

SY - F
Outer consecutive primary coverts dark brown and fresh, all other retained primary coverts pale brown and abraded.  Moustache region uniform in colour with the rest of the face.

     

HY - M
Primary coverts paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown. Black moustache present.

HY - F
Primary coverts paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown.  Moustache region uniform in colour with the rest of the face. 

 

 Ageing and sexing details:

after-third-year male


ATY males have black moustaches and deep red irises.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.
 


Photo by James Junda, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2008


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown feathers OR are uniformly dark brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR have 1-4 retained adult feathers (not symmetrically in both wings), contrasting only slightly with the replaced feathers.  ATYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts sequentially replaced might be reliably aged 4Y, but more study is needed.


 Photo by James Junda, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2008


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 


Photo by James Junda, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), September 2008

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-third-year female


ATY females do not have black moustaches and have deep red irises.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown feathers OR are uniformly dark brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR have 1-4 retained adult feathers (not symmetrically in both wings), contrasting only slightly with the replaced feathers.  ATYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts sequentially replaced might be reliably aged 4Y, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

third-year male


TY males have black moustaches and have deep red irises.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2005


Consecutive outer 1-5 primary coverts are dark brown and fresh. All other retained primary coverts are pale brown and abraded.  In the photo below, the outer 2 primary coverts have been replaced and contrast with the retained inner coverts. The secondaries are either uniformly adult OR sometimes with 1-4 retained juvenal feathers (symmetrically in both wings), contrasting markedly with the rest of the wing.  Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY. The third example below is of a Red-shafted (western) Flicker.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2008


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2008


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2005


Photo by Peter Pyle, Big Sur Ornithology Lab (CA), April 2007


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2008

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

third-year female

TY females do not have black moustaches.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Consecutive outer 1-5 primary coverts are dark brown and fresh. All other retained primary coverts are pale brown and abraded.  See the second photo below for an enlarged view, showing the two darker outermost primary coverts.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult OR sometimes with 1-4 retained juvenal feathers (symmetrically in both wings), contrasting markedly with the rest of the wing.  Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2007

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male


SY males have black moustaches and have gray/brown irises through January.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Primary coverts are paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, rounded p10.


Photo by Peter Pyle, Howell Woods (NC),
May 2006


Look for pointed, juvenal rectrices.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female


SY females do not have black moustaches and have gray/brown irises through January. The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Primary coverts are paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, rounded p10.



 


Look for pointed, juvenal rectrices.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-second-year male


ASY males have black moustaches and have deep red irises.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown feathers OR are uniformly dark brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR have 1-4 retained adult feathers (not symmetrically in both wings), contrasting only slightly with the replaced feathers.  ASYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts sequentially replaced might be reliably aged TY, but more study is needed.

 

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

after-second-year female


ASY females do not have black moustaches and have deep red irises. The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of dark brown (fresh), brown, and very pale brown feathers OR are uniformly dark brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR have 1-4 retained adult feathers (not symmetrically in both wings), contrasting only slightly with the replaced feathers.  ASYs with isolated, retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts sequentially replaced might be reliably aged TY, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male


SY males have black moustaches and have gray/brown irises through January.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Consecutive outer 1-5 primary coverts are dark brown and fresh. All other retained primary coverts are pale brown and abraded.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult OR sometimes with 1-4 retained juvenal feathers (symmetrically in both wings), contrasting markedly with the rest of the wing.  Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female


SY females do not have black moustaches and have gray/brown irises through January. The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.

 


Consecutive outer 1-5 primary coverts are dark brown and fresh. All other retained primary coverts are pale brown and abraded.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult OR sometimes with 1-4 retained juvenal feathers (symmetrically in both wings), contrasting markedly with the rest of the wing.  Some intermediates may occur that are extremely difficult to age.  These should be aged ASY.

    


 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year male


HY males have black moustaches (though they may vary in intensity as the two photos below illustrate) and have gray/brown irises.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2007


Photo by Seabrooke Leckie,
McGill Bird Observatory, August 2006


Primary coverts are paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, rounded p10.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2007


Look for pointed, juvenal rectrices.

 


Photo by Seabrooke Leckie, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2006

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year female


HY females do not have black moustaches and have gray/brown irises.  The extent of red in the crown should not be used for sexing.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008


Primary coverts are paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Caution: fresh fall HYs can resemble ASYs with uniform secondaries and primary coverts.  Look for retention of juvenal characteristics through October: a larger, rounded p10.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008


Look for pointed, juvenal rectrices.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), August 2008

 RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.