Fernandina's Flicker - Colaptes fernandinae

February 09, 2010

I recently was asked to create a painting of a Dovekie (Alle alle) and Fernandina's Flicker. Both are very interesting birds. They are very different from one another, so I will post about the Dovekie separately.

Here in the States we have two species of flicker: Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), and Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides). It was once thought that Gilded was a subspecies of the Northern, but recent research has shown them to be different species. Flickers are rather large woodpeckers that, unlike some of the other members of the Picidae family, tend to favor foraging on the ground. They use their strong bills to probe in to the ground and stir up ants, grubs and other invertebrates. There's a dusty, flat patch of ground in my neighbors yard that is frequented by a few during the spring and summer for this purpose.

Fernandina's Flicker is a species that is endemic to Cuba. It's population has been hovering around 600 to 800, making it one of the rarest woodpeckers in the world. Like their North American counterparts, Colaptes fernandinae, like to forage on the ground. As far as appearance, they share some similar traits with the Northern and Gilded, but are quite distinct. I told Dave Willard at the Field Museum (bird collections manager that I volunteer for) that I had a commission to do a small painting of the Fernandina, and this resulted in him helping me find the few study skin specimens in the collections. These are specimens that were collected many, many years ago. Its status in the wild is so unstable due to low numbers, and constant threats from habitat loss, that collecting any specimens these days is out of the question. The photo above is of the backside and tails of these specimens. The plumage patterning is striking. Our flickers have similar patterning,but not quite as bold as what you see on the Fernandina's here. The other image is the painting I made. There is a sweet story behind the name "Greeter" in the banner, but for the sake of client privacy, I won't go in to details.


  1. What a sweet flicker! A friend and myself were recently looking through an old illustrated bird book found at the library when we happened on the 'Dovekie'. We laughed at its name, its short tail feathers, and generally comic appearance, sure that it couldn't really exist. We stand corrected. Can't wait to see your painting!

  2. Oh I know! I had never heard of a Dovekie before, either. They're pretty cute, aren't they?

  3. The markings on its plumage remind me of zebra skins. Thanks for this; I'd never heard of Fernandina's Flicker!

  4. Aw, Diana, I just this morning got a chance to look at your blog and see these posts. Pshaw to client privacy! To those that are curious about the banner, I commissioned the Dovekie and Fernandina's Flicker paintings from Diana to commemorate our two young dogs, who are named after these two birds. Fern (a.k.a Flicker), our two-and-a-half year old Golden Retriever, is our official house Greeter. Dovekie, our four-month-old black and white Retriever mix, is a tail-wagging Enthusiast.

    We just got the two little paintings back from the frame shop, and they're laying in front of me here. My husband and I are looking forward to carrying them around the house, settling on their home, where no doubt they'll make us smile for years to come.


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