Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
In the United States, the Gilded Flicker resides in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, with a tiny population reaching across the Colorado River into southeastern California. In 1999, its status in California was listed as unknown, and this flicker may be close to extirpation in that state. In Mexico, the range extends south through Baja California and the state of Sonora into northern Sinaloa.
The Gilded Flicker nests in mature saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea
) with a central, stove-pipe stem and the cardon cactus (Pachycereus pringlei
) with many column-shaped branches. The giant saguaro reaches 40 to 60 feet tall, with one central stem and several branches. The more heavily branched cardon, or elephant, cactus can also grow to 60 feet. These cacti need to be at least 16 feet tall to accommodate nest holes. River bottoms with cottonwoods, ironwood, and willows are also inhabited, and some nests are dug into the soft trees. Mature, dense stands of cottonwoods are preferred. Even when nesting in cacti, Gilded Flickers forage in trees along watercourses, where insects escape the sun among fallen leaves and weedy plants.
The Gilded Woodpecker's diet and foraging behavior are poorly described. The diet consists mainly of insects, especially ants, found in trees or, most often, on the ground among annual plants produced by seasonal rains. This woodpecker does not appear to search cacti for insects. In general, flickers dig in the soil and thrust their bills into soft material, feeling for insects and larvae, which they capture with sticky, barbed tongues. Observers from the early 20th Century report that berries, Saguaro fruit, and watermelon (at a feeder) are also eaten.
Much of the Gilded Flicker's breeding biology needs study. Nesting begins in early April in the United States, and pair bonds appear to last for the breeding season. A nest hole is excavated in a tall saguaro cactus, about 9 feet from the top and 11 to 25 feet from the ground. The holes are fairly deep, 5-25 inches, and usually oriented toward the north or northwest and away from other branches or stems. With clutch sizes significantly smaller than the Northern Flicker, the Gilded Flicker incubates 3-5 white eggs for an unknown period, perhaps 11-14 days. The hatchlings are naked, blind, and defenseless. The development, juvenile period, and dispersal of the Gilded Flicker is poorly understood.
The few studies of the Gilded Flicker's movements suggest that it does not migrate.