Fernandina’s flicker (Colaptes fernandinae)

Also known as: Cuban flicker
GenusColaptes (1)
SizeSize: 30 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

This medium-sized, long-billed woodpecker is a rare Cuban endemic (2) (3). Overall body colouration is a yellowish-brown with heavy black barring, while the head is cinnamon-coloured finely streaked with black (3) (4). Upperparts and the wings show stronger, denser black tones, while underparts are more predominantly yellow (2). Males have a black malar stripe, whereas the female’s malar is heavily mottled with white (3) (4).

Patchily distributed across Cuba. The total population is estimated at just 600 to 800 birds and appears to be decreasing (2).

Open woodland and pastures with palms are preferred habitats, although the species is also found in denser woodland and marshes (3) (4). Closely associated with palms, which are required for nesting holes (3).

Fernandina’s flicker feeds on ants, insects, worms, grubs and seeds, with foraging frequently performed on the ground. Food is extracted from the soil and under leaves, on lawns and dusty tracks. Individuals usually forage on their own, but may search in pairs during the breeding season (4).

These primarily solitary birds usually come together only to breed (4). Loose ‘colonies’ have occasionally been recorded at Bermeja in the Zapata Swamp, but sociality is rare and aggression between individuals is common (2). Nesting takes place from March to June, with courtship frequently involving aerial chases. Clutches of three to five eggs are laid in cavities and holes in trees, which are then incubated for around 18 days. At around 22 days old, young begin to fledge the nest (4).

Fernandina’s flicker has been down-listed from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because its largest sub-population in Zapata is thought to number more than 250 individuals (2). Nevertheless, the bird has a very small population, which is severely fragmented and rapidly declining, largely due to habitat loss (2) (3). Logging and extensive forest clearance for agriculture are at least partly responsible for the bird’s decline and continue to pose significant threats. Hurricanes have also had a devastating impact on the palm trees on which the species depends (2) (4). Nest trees are often shared with the Cuban parrot Amazona leucocephala, and parrot trappers frequently topple the trees to collect young parrots, destroying both the woodpecker’s brood and the nest site (2). Additionally, West Indian woodpeckers Melanerpes superciliaris have been observed to prey on the eggs and chicks of Fernandina’s flicker (2).

The Cuban government has created a number of reserves (4), including the entire Zapata Swamp area, which contains the stronghold for this species, but there are inadequate resources to effectively police and protect the area (2) (4). Proposed conservation measures for future consideration include raising awareness of the vulnerability of this rare woodpecker, through displaying posters in areas where it still exists, and fitting nest-boxes to live palms within and around known nesting areas (2) (4).

For more information on Fernandina’s flicker see:

Birdlife International:

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sagatal, J. (2002) Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 7 - Jacamars to woodpeckers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)