skip to content

Colaptes campestris

Campo Flicker

  • Order: Piciformes
  • Family: Picidae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Dias, Raphael Igor, and Regina Helena Macedo



Sao Lourenço do Oeste SC, Brazil, 09 October 2005 © Rudimar Cipriani,The Campo Flicker is a large-sized, mainly terrestrial woodpecker. The sides of the head and the neck, and the breast, are mainly yellow; it also has a black crown, brown back barred with white, and a white rump with a few thin bars. The two subspecies differ only in throat coloration, being black in campestris and white in campestroides (see Geographic Variation).

Similar Species

The Campo Flicker is a very distinctive species, hardly confusable with other species within its range.


Similarly to other woodpeckers, Campo Flickers present a wide range of calls given in a variety of social contexts (D. Goedert pers. comm.).

Among the calls in its repertoire, the Campo Flicker emits a strong call composed of whistled notes similar to the flight call of the Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) (Short 1972). This call probably functions in an alarm context. Another call, denominated Wick Call by Short (1972), also is known for Campo Flickers. It is composed of an irregular series of notes with strong harmonics, with possible agonistic and pair-maintenance functions. Short (1972) also described the Low Wicka Calls, which sound like "we-a, we-a" and "Kwih, Kya-wi, Kya-wi." The initial notes of the Wick Call are similar to the Low Wicka Calls, sounding like "waa-waa," "chew-aaa" or "Ka-Ka-a-a-a-Ka-waah" (Short 1972). Finally, the species also presents a Long Call. This call, which is likely to function in mate attraction, is formed by notes that emphasize the initial segment and weak harmonics (Short 1972). Some individuals also emit a loud scream when handled by humans (RID pers. obs.).

Nestlings produce a loud begging emitted when anyone approaches the nest. However, this behavior usually stops when the chicks are about two weeks old, being given only when parents approach the nest entrance. When the nestlings are getting ready to fledge, it is common to observe them executing several vocalizations from the nest entrance (e.g. Whistled notes and Wick Calls).

Nonvocal Sounds

Despite the fact that drumming is common among woodpeckers, no nonvocal sounds were recorded for the Campo Flicker (D. Goedert pers. comm.).

Detailed Description (appearance)


Adult male and female Campo Flickers are easily identifiable: both sides of the head and neck as well as the breast are yellow and the crown is black. The feathers around the eyes are dull white. The dorsal plumage is brown, barred with dull white; the rump is white with a few narrow bars. Underparts and tail-coverts are dull white, barred with brown. The shaft of the primaries and secondaries is yellow. There are yellowish-white feathers in the underwing. The central tail feathers are almost entirely brown but the outermost rectrices are barred with white. The two subspecies are easily distinguishable by the difference in throat coloration, black in campestris and white in campestroides. Males and females are almost alike, differing only in malar stripe coloration, which is red in males and black in females. For the subspecies campestroides the malar coloration may be very white, with only a few black spots in females (Short 1972).


Adult male Campo Flicker. Photographed in central Brazil by Raphael Dias. Adult female Campo Flicker. Photographed in central Brazil by Raphael Dias.


Chicks hatch completely naked, with pink skin and closed eyelids. They present a pad at the base of the mandible, which becomes very reduced near fledging. A white spot is noticeable at the end of the bill. The eyelids start to open 10-12 days after hatching. Fast feather development starts around the beginning of the second week after hatching, and at approximately 25 days the nestlings present a well developed plumage that allows differentiation of the sexes.

Nestlings 8 days after hatch. Photographed in central Brazil by Raphael Dias.


Juveniles are similar to adults, but are distinguished by the lighter coloration of the yellow plumage on the sides of the head, around the neck and breast.

25-day old female nestling, almost ready to fledge. Photographed in central Brazil by Raphael Dias.

Bare Parts

Iris – reddish brown

Bill and tarsi – gray


The values presented here are based on measurements from 35 males and 35 females from a population in central Brazil (RID unpubl. data), and are presented as means ± standard error.

Body Mass (g):

Males – 152.86 ± 1.27

Females – 148.57 ± 1.25

Wing (flat, mm):

Males – 155.25 ± 0.73

Females – 154.67 ± 0.70

Tail (mm):

Males – 121.25 ± 0.79

Females – 118.37 ± 0.98

Tarsus (mm):

Males – 33.13 ± 0.21

Females – 32.99 ± 0.15

Bill length (mm):

Males – 28.43 ± 0.26

Females – 27.89 ± 0.16


Little information is available for molting of Campo Flickers. However, data suggest that they start molting after breeding (November/December in central Brazil). Some molting individuals in central Brazil were captured until April (RID unpubl. data). Short (1972) suggested that in the southern populations (subspecies campestroides) molt occurs between February and May, but this may vary geographically.

Geographic Variation

Two subspecies are recognized: Colaptes campestris campestris, which is distributed from northern Paraguay to the northern regions of Brazil; and Colaptes campestris campestroides, which is found in southern Brazil and Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. These subspecies seem to hybridize from the Paraguayan chaco across central Paraguay, the northern extreme of Misiones (Argentina) and across Santa Catarina (Brazil). The two subspecies are isolated by continuous forest vegetation. However, when compared to other species, geographical variation is very limited in Campo Flickers, and is restricted to a difference in throat coloration, which is black for campestris and white for campestroides (Short 1972).


The true woodpeckers, which are assigned to the subfamily Picinae, are considered to be a monophyletic group. Short (1982) initially separated the woodpeckers into six tribes, among them, the Colaptini, including Colaptes and allies. However, a recent study using nucleotide sequences for the 12S ribosomal RNA, cytochrome b, and cytochrome oxidase c subunit 1 found support for three distinct woodpecker clades, and proposed the recognition of the following tribes: Malarpicini, Dendropicini, and Megapicini. According to this study, the Malarpicini would contain the genera Colaptes, Piculus, Celeus, Dryocopus, Mulleripicus, Dinopium, Meiglyptes, Picus, Campethera, and Geocolaptes (Webb and Moore 2005). Moreover, the study proposes the designation of the monophyletic sub-tribe Dryocolaptes within the Malarpicini, which would include the genera Colaptes, Piculus, Mulleripicus, Dryocopus and Celeus (Webb and Moore 2005). The genus Colaptes is represented by eight species, called flickers, distributed throughout the New World. The flickers encompass some of the most social species, as well as some species with highly terrestrial habits. From an evolutionary perspective, flickers are particularly interesting because of the occurrence of hybridization in four of the eight species (Short 1972).

Recommended Citation

Dias, Raphael Igor, and Regina Helena Macedo. 2010. Campo Flicker (Colaptes campestris), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: