Welcome to the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program
Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program Balancing Resource Use and Conservation

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Gilded Flicker

      (Colaptes chrysoides)

Potential gilded flicker habitat along the lower Colorado RiverGilded Flicker drills its hole in the saguaro - Photo by Harold T. Coss, Jr., - National Park ServicePotential gilded flicker habitat along the lower Colorado River
  • DESCRIPTION
  • DISTRIBUTION
  • HABITAT
  • CONSERVATION
  • MULTIMEDIA

General Description

The gilded flicker (Colaptes chrysoides) is a large woodpecker, measuring 11-12.2 in (28-31 cm) in length and weighing 3.9 oz (111 g). The breast and belly are beige, spotted heavily with black. The back is pale brown with black horizontal stripes. The crown is a rufous yellow color, contrasting with the gray throat. The ventral side of the tail and wings are yellow. In flight, the white rump is obvious. The male has a red cheek stripe, which is lacking in the female. The gilded flicker has the pale brown head of a red-shafted flicker but the yellow wings and tail of the yellow-shafted flicker.

Legal Status

The state of California listed the gilded flicker as endangered in 1988.

Taxonomy

The gilded flicker was first described by Malherbe in 1852. Since 1995, the American Ornithologists Union has considered the gilded flicker a distinct species. Prior to 1995, the American Ornithologists Union considered the gilded flicker a subspecies of, or the same species as, the northern flicker. The limited hybridization of the gilded flicker with other forms was the reason it was recognized as its own species.

Reproduction

As gilded flickers are a non-migratory species, breeding behavior begins early in the season. Nest cavity excavation may begin months before breeding, especially in saguaro trees as they need to dry before they are used. Throughout the LCR MSCP area, gilded flickers utilize cottonwood, willow, saguaro, and honey mesquite trees for nest cavities. Nest cavity construction is performed by both male and female flickers, with the male taking a dominant role. Nest cavity construction can take weeks to complete. Gilded flickers have been observed occupying nests in mid March, with young observed in early April. The latest observed young in a nest was early July. Gilded flicker clutch size averaged 4.2 eggs per attempt. Flickers usually produce only one brood per season but will re-nest if first attempt fails. Both flicker parents provide parental care during all phases of the nest cycle. Incubation usually takes 11 days. The nestlings fledge between 21 and 27 days old.

Diet

The gilded flicker diet is similar to that of northern flickers. Northern flicker diets consist mostly of ants and ground beetles. In the fall and winter flicker diets shift to fruits. Primarily, flickers forage for food on the ground, in soil, and in anthills, probing and hammering their bill. Flickers are rarely found foraging in trees.

Threats

Records exist of Harris hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and broad-winged hawk preying upon flickers. Various species of rodents, lizards, snakes, crows, ravens, as well as raccoons, are common predators of flicker nestlings. Flicker response to predators is rare. European starlings are common nest cavity competitors with flickers; however, they may not compete with gilded flickers.

More Information

Additional information on this species, as well as source documentation, can be found in the species accounts located at this link (PDF). The Conceptual Ecological Model (CEM) can be found here (PDF). Technical Reports on this species can be found here.

Updated December 8, 2017

Gilded flickers breed mostly where saguaros exist along the lower Colorado River in southern Nevada, southern Arizona, and eastern California, south to the tip of Baja California, Mexico, and east through the Sonoran Desert. Typically, gilded flickers are absent in urban areas within their range. Currently, the gilded flicker is a rare transient/breeder along the lower Colorado River. They consistently breed along the upper Bill Williams River, a tributary of the lower Colorado River.

In most of its breeding range, the gilded flicker is associated with mature saguaro cactus. Along the LCR, gilded flickers are associated with cottonwood-willow riparian areas and breed mostly where saguaros and Joshua trees exist. Although gilded flickers are year round residents in habitat around the LCR, little is known about their habitat use and local movements. Typically, gilded flickers stay away from densely populated urban and rural neighborhoods.

 

LCR MSCP Conservation Measures

The Habitat Conservation Plan provides conservation measures specific to each species. Listed below are the species specific conservation measures for the gilded flicker. Click on the arrows to expand the table.

GIFL1—Create 4,050 acres of gilded flicker habitat

Of the 5,940 acres of created cottonwood-willow, at least 4,050 acres will be designed and created to provide habitat for this species. The 4,050 acres of habitat created for the yellow-billed cuckoo will also provide habitat for the gilded flicker. The created habitat will be established in patches as large as possible but will not be created in patches smaller than 25 acres. In addition to the spatial replacement of affected habitat, the quality of created habitat will be substantially greater than affected habitats. Patches of existing cottonwood-willow in the LCR MSCP planning area typically include dense stands of saltcedar that support little vegetative diversity relative to the cottonwood-willow land cover that will be created as habitat. Created habitat will be dominated by native riparian trees (i.e., cottonwood and willow trees), support a tree structure corresponding to structural types I–III, support a diversity of plant species, and be created to the greatest extent practicable in patch sizes optimal for supporting the species. The design and management criteria described in the conservation measures for the yellow-billed cuckoo (Section 5.7.14 in the HCP) will ensure that created cottonwood-willow stands in structural types I–III will also provide other habitat requirements for this species (e.g., habitat patch size, food requirements). Created habitat, thus, will approximate the condition of the native habitat of the species that was historically present along the LCR. In addition, created southwestern willow flycatcher habitat that supports cottonwood-willow types I–III could also provide habitat for this species.

GIFL2—Install artificial snags to provide gilded flicker nest sites

Until vegetation in created patches of gilded flicker habitat has matured sufficiently to support structural characteristics of nesting habitat (i.e. snags), install artificial snags that can be used by gilded flickers to excavate nesting cavities.

MRM1—Conduct surveys and research to better identify covered and evaluation species habitat requirements

Conduct surveys and research, as appropriate, to collect information necessary to better define the species habitat requirements and to design and manage fully functioning created covered and evaluation species habitats. This conservation measure applies to those species for which comparable measures are not subsumed under species-specific conservation measures (Section 5.7 in the HCP). They are not applicable to species for which habitat would not be created under the LCR MSCP Conservation Plan, such as the desert tortoise, relict leopard frog, humpback chub, and threecorner milkvetch.

MRM2—Monitor and adaptively manage created covered and evaluation species habitats

Created species habitats will be managed to maintain their functions as species habitat over the term of the LCR MSCP. Created habitat will be monitored and adaptively managed over time to determine the types and frequency of management activities that may be required to maintain created cottonwood-willow, honey mesquite, marsh, and backwater land cover as habitat for covered species. This conservation measure applies to those species for which comparable measures are not subsumed under species-specific conservation measures (Section 5.7 in the HCP). They are not applicable to species for which habitat would not be created under the LCR MSCP Conservation Plan, such as the desert tortoise, relict leopard frog, humpback chub, and threecorner milkvetch.

MRM3—Conduct research to determine and address the effects of nest site competition with European starlings on reproduction of covered species

Research will be undertaken to determine whether nest site competition with European starlings is a substantial factor limiting the reproductive success of the elf owl, gilded flicker, and Gila woodpecker. If so, experimental programs may be implemented to determine the effectiveness and practicality of controlling starlings.

CMM1—Reduce risk of loss of created habitat to wildfire

Management of LCR MSCP conservation areas will include contributing to and integrating with local, state, and Federal agency fire management plans. Conservation areas will be designed to contain wildfire and facilitate rapid response to suppress fires (e.g., fire management plans will be an element of each conservation area management plan).

CMM2—Replace created habitat affected by wildfire

In the event of created-habitat degradation or loss as a result of wildfire, land management and habitat creation measures to support the reestablishment of native vegetation will be identified and implemented.

AMM1—To the extent practicable, avoid and minimize impacts of implementing the LCR MSCP on existing covered species habitats

To the extent practicable, establishment and management of LCR MSCP–created habitats will avoid removal of existing cottonwood-willow stands, honey mesquite bosques, marsh, and backwaters to avoid and minimize impacts on habitat they provide for covered species. Temporary disturbance of covered species habitats, however, may be associated with habitat creation and subsequent maintenance activities (e.g., controlled burning in marshes and removal of trees to maintain succession objectives). LCR MSCP conservation measures that could result in such temporary disturbances will, to the extent practicable, be designed and implemented to avoid or minimize the potential for disturbance. In addition to implementing AMM3 and AMM4 below, these measures could include conducting preconstruction surveys to determine if covered species are present and, if present, implementing habitat establishment and management activities during periods when the species would be least sensitive to those activities; or redesigning the activities to avoid the need to disturb sensitive habitat use areas; staging construction activities away from sensitive habitat use areas; and implementing BMPs to control erosion when implementing ground disturbing activities.

AMM2—Avoid impacts of flow-related covered activities on covered species habitats at Topock Marsh

Impacts on groundwater levels that support covered species habitat at Topock Marsh will be avoided by maintaining water deliveries for maintenance of water levels and existing conditions. At times, flow-related activities could lower river elevations to levels that could disrupt diversion of water from the river to the marsh.  Improvements to intake structures that allow water to continue to be diverted or other measures to maintain the water surface elevation will avoid effects on groundwater elevation. Avoidance of effects could be accomplished with the purchase, installation, and operation of two electric pumps sized to the current inflow at the Topock Marsh diversion inlet. The pumps would most likely need to be operated during summer to make up for the lower flow periods.

Implementation of this conservation measure would maintain existing habitat at Topock Marsh for the Yuma clapper rail, southwestern willow flycatcher, Colorado River cotton rat, western least bittern, California black rail, yellow-billed cuckoo, gilded flicker, vermilion flycatcher, Arizona Bell's vireo, and Sonoran yellow warbler. The extent of covered species habitat impacts that will be avoided by maintaining water deliveries to Topock Marsh are presented in Table 4-2 in the HCP. Maintaining water deliveries to Topock Marsh will also maintain razorback sucker and bonytail habitat associated with disconnected backwaters managed for these species.

AMM3—To the extent practicable, avoid and minimize disturbance of covered bird species during the breeding season

To the extent practicable, to avoid and minimize potential impacts on covered bird species, vegetation management activities (e.g., periodic removal of emergent vegetation to maintain canals and drains) associated with implementation of covered activities and the LCR MSCP that could result in disturbance to covered bird species will not be implemented during the breeding season to prevent injury or mortality of eggs and young birds unable to avoid these activities. Table 5-9 in the HCP describes the breeding period for each of the covered species during which, to the extent practicable, vegetation management activities in each species' habitat will be avoided.

AMM5—Avoid impacts of operation, maintenance, and replacement of hydroelectric generation and transmission facilities on covered species in the LCR MSCP planning area

To the extent practicable, before implementing activities associated with OM&R of hydroelectric generation and transmission facilities, measures will be identified and implemented that are necessary to avoid take of covered species where such activities could otherwise result in take. These measures could include conducting surveys to determine if covered species are present and, if so, deferring the implementation of activities to avoid disturbance during the breeding season; redesigning the activities to avoid the need to disturb covered species habitat use areas; staging of equipment outside of covered species habitats; delineating the limits of vegetation control activities to ensure that only the vegetation that needs to be removed to maintain infrastructure is removed; stockpiling and disposing of removed vegetation in a manner that minimizes the risk of fire; and implementing BMPs to control erosion when implementing ground disturbing activities.

AMM6—Avoid or minimize impacts on covered species habitats during dredging, bank stabilization activities and other river management activities

To the extent practicable, before initiating activities involved with river maintenance projects, measures will be identified and implemented that avoid or minimize take of covered species where such activities could otherwise result in take. Such measures could include alternative methods to achieve project goals, timing of activities, pre-activity surveys, and minimizing the area of effect, including offsite direct and indirect effects (e.g., avoiding or minimizing the need to place dredge spoil and discharge lines in covered species habitats; placing dredge spoils in a manner that will not affect covered species habitats).


Research and Monitoring Activities

LCR MSCP conducts a variety of research and monitoring activities along the LCR encompassing both MSCP and non-MSCP species. For a complete list of all activities, please see the Research and Monitoring Activities web page.

 

This gallery includes photos of this species. If you require larger photos, please contact our webmaster Michelle Reilly at mreilly@usbr.gov.

Potential gilded flicker habitat along the lower Colorado River - Photo by Great Basin Bird Observatory - Amy Leist Potential gilded flicker habitat along the lower Colorado River - Photo by Great Basin Bird Observatory - Amy Leist Potential gilded flicker habitat along the lower Colorado River - Photo by Great Basin Bird Observatory - Amy Leist Gilded flicker - Photo by Bureau of Reclamation Gilded flicker - Photo by Bureau of Reclamation