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Flicker Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

Northern Yellow shafted flicker

The flicker is a species of woodpecker that flashes bright colors when it takes wing. These birds are distinctive for their speckled patterns, captivating markings, and the telltale drumming sounds they produce as woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers on the whole are interesting birds who fill a unique ecological niche. Of any bird’s “song” there is likely none more identifiable than the percussive rhythms that woodpeckers generate. This hammering beat is a sure sign that a woodpecker is nearby, as are the many holes that these birds leave behind on the trees where they hunt for insects. Clearly, flickers and woodpeckers are uniquely inclined to leave their mark on their environment.

When it comes to their mark upon humankind, flickers are beloved among birdwatchers and nature-lovers alike. Flickers are outgoing and easy to spot and identify, so many feel a sense of connection to these birds. Additionally, flickers are among the only woodpeckers that migrate. (1) Thus, their distribution cuts a wide swath through North America and pockets of Central America. (2) Many residents in these regions associate the beauty of the flicker with a sense of home.

Treasured by many, it is no surprise that, even among other woodpeckers, the flicker tends to stand out. If the distinctive beauty of the flicker makes you feel especially connected to these birds then you are not alone. Read on to discover the guidance that the flicker has to offer us. For more information about woodpeckers, check out our article on woodpecker symbolism, mythology, and meaning.

On this page
Flicker Symbolism and Meaning
Flicker Native American Symbolism
Flicker Celtic Symbolism
Flicker in Dreams
Flicker Encounters and Omens
Flicker Mythology and Folklore
    Native American Mythology:
    Greek Mythology:
Flicker Spirit Animal
Flicker Totem Animal
Flicker Power Animal
Flicker Tattoo Meaning

Flicker Symbolism and Meaning

Like a flamboyant drummer in a glamorous rock band, the flicker is a flashy percussion powerhouse. Clearly, then, one of the easiest meanings we can derive from the flicker is individuality and expression. The flicker is unafraid to show off its true colors and even less afraid to make a little noise. Thus, this bird reminds us to be our most authentic selves and to do so loudly and proudly. 

Additionally, the flicker represents the value of making one’s own way in the world. This bird truly represents the ideal of “marching to the beat of a different drummer.” In fact, the flicker may also symbolize the need to be your own drummer!

The flicker’s very name refers to a burst of light. This is very fitting considering the way that the flicker’s red or gold plumage flashes when the bird takes to the air. The flicker can thus be associated with light and fire.

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Flicker Native American Symbolism

In Native American traditions, flickers are lucky birds associated with healing, medicine, and visitors. Additionally, the flicker’s plumage associates these birds with the sun.

In Apache traditions, flickers are renowned for their beautiful voice. (3)

The Lenape tradition associates flickers with symbiosis, balance, and nurturing.

Flicker Celtic Symbolism

Though flickers are not present outside of the Americas, Celtic traditions would likely associate them with femininity and the otherworld. In Celtic traditions, animals with red markings are seen as magical, otherworldly, and powerful. (4

Additionally, birds in Celtic traditions are typically associated with femininity, otherworldliness, domesticity, and sovereignty.

Flicker in Dreams

Have you been having dreams about flickers? Though such dreams may feel mysterious, rest assured that flickers are a positive omen that tends to bring needed change and growth. Dreaming of a flicker can be a very valuable source of internal insights and spiritual guidance. 

Northern Flicker in the Snow
Photo by Meister199 on Pixabay

A dream in which a flicker is heard drumming refers to rhythm. Perhaps your life is entering a new routine. Such a dream is usually a reminder that the best rhythms are the ones we forge for ourselves. Don’t worry about repetition, conformity, or the expectations of others. The flicker reminds us to instead focus on finding a rhythm that suits ourselves and leads us down the path to the happy future that we envision.

Dreaming of a flicker in flight represents hidden blessings. When flickers take to the sky, the bright colors on their undersides flash in brilliant shades of reds and golds. Though most of the flicker is a simple, though still entirely beautiful, speckled brown, when this bird is in its element exploring the sky, it’s dazzling true colors shine. Dreaming of this special feature that flickers share is an indication that something unexpected is coming your way. It may mean that something mundane will bring surprising joy to your life. Alternatively, it may be a reminder that you must seek out your hidden potential by exploring your strengths.

Flicker Encounters and Omens

Encountering a flicker is a memorable event. Whether a flicker has visited your garden, or has brightened your morning walk with its trilling song, the impact of the flicker is one of joy and striking beauty. Flickers and woodpeckers have long been associated with guidance and healing. So, a visit from one of these spectacular birds may present a valuable opportunity to learn and grow.

If a flicker visits your home, it is a sign that your home is in harmony. Flickers are migratory birds who travel all over North and Central America. (5) If, of all the potential places a flicker could land, your home is chosen, this may indicate that the flicker senses the nurturing safe haven that your home is.

Flickers are often associated with medicine and healing. A visit from a flicker may indicate that your spirit is in need of care. In this case, the flicker may appear to you because it has the capacity to heal your pain and nourish your spirit. This is especially true in cases of grief. Many cultures believe that visits from birds are representative of departed loved ones. A flicker may appear to bolster your spirit and help you find the strength to carry on after a devastating loss.

An appearance from a flicker may also indicate that you have a creative spirit. Flickers are musical animals. Their drumming and singing fill the landscape signaling their arrival throughout their migrations. A visit from a flicker may mean that there is a creative side of you that you need to invest in exploring. The flicker is a reminder to express oneself and be authentic.

Flicker in Mythology & Folklore

Flickers are only present in North and Central America, however woodpeckers in general are often extremely significant mythologically. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus mostly on specific mythological reference to the flicker, however some general information about woodpeckers will also be included.

Native American Mythology:

In Native American mythology, the flicker is a beloved bird associated with music, healing, sacredness, and the sun.

In one Apache text, the flicker describes himself as follows:

“My name is Gose ‘flicker.’ I eat with my long bill. I fly with my wings which are red underneath. My legs are blue and the borders of my eyes are pinkish. My voice is loud and when I sing all the people hear me. They like my voice. This is my nature” (6)

According to this text, the flicker is loud and confident. The people treasure the flicker for the beauty of its voice.

Northern Flicker
Photo by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash

In a Lenape myth, the great Sugar Maple is suffering from itching and distress from the insects crawling under its bark. Sugar Maple asks the squirrels and badgers for help, but they cannot do anything to help it. Then, Sugar Maple asks the birds for help. Woodpecker volunteers, along with his cousin “Ulikwan,” the flicker. Woodpecker and Flicker eat the insects and rescue Sugar Maple. Then one day, after some time has passed, Woodpecker and Flicker can find no water and are suffering from their thirst. Remembering how the two had helped it before, Sugar Maple instructs them to drill into its trunk and drink its sap. According to legend, this is how the Lenape learned to collect the sap of the Sugar Maple. (7)

In this story, the flicker is a helpful spirit who selflessly volunteers to assist a friend in need. In doing so, the flicker embodies the concept of symbiosis, reciprocity, and balance.

Greek Mythology:

In Greek mythology, the votive animal of Ares, the god of war, is the woodpecker. There are no flickers in Greece, however, as woodpeckers themselves, these birds can be connected to Ares too. In this context, their drumming may represent the drums of war or the passionate hammering of a heart in the throes of battle. (8)

Flicker Spirit Animal

Do you suspect that the flicker might be your spirit animal? If this bird feels like a guiding force in your life, this probably means that you are a fearless go-getter with a tendency towards creativity that sometimes borders on wacky.

People with the flicker as their spirit animal are never afraid to stand out. Such individuals know the value of expressing themselves without holding anything back. The flicker spirit animal is extremely honest and will never censor itself for the sake of fitting in.

The flicker spirit animal is often found in those who feel an intense calling to heal and nurture others. People with the flicker spirit animal may feel uncomfortable when they don’t feel like they’re making themselves “useful” enough. This compassionate nature is a virtue, but it may lead individuals with this spirit animal to try to fix people. They may even gravitate towards difficult people out of a sense that they can be the most useful towards such people. This is a dangerous recipe for dysfunction. As such, people with this spirit animal must conquer that urge and limit their compassion to things that they can realistically do to help others without martyring themselves.

Flicker Totem Animal

The flicker totem animal is one of high passion and intensity. People with this totem animal have a tendency to do everything at one hundred percent. This means that when someone with the flicker totem animal feels passionate about something, then they are unstoppable in pursuit of that passion.

Unfortunately, this also means that when individuals with the flicker as their totem animal feel disengaged or bored with something, then their interest disappears and their focus and work ethic plummet. People with this totem animal may struggle with finishing projects and staying on task.

Additionally, people with the flicker as their totem animal tend to experience their emotions with red hot intensity. They may rush into relationships because of their tendency to be swept up in emotion. Additionally, people with this totem animal often struggle with temper. They often have a short fuse, though, once their anger has subsided, the flicker totem animal rarely holds a grudge.

Flicker Power Animal

The flicker power animal relates to two specific strengths: pattern recognition and rhythm and timing.

People with this power animal tend to notice patterns right away. If they have the strength to break negative patterns, then this power can have a very positive effect on the life of an individual with the flicker power animal.

Additionally, people with this power animal tend to be able to, often on a subconscious level, sense the proper times to act. They are uniquely capable of maintaining a regular spiritual rhythm. Even when their lives look chaotic, for people with this power animal, everything is governed by an underlying order.

Flicker Tattoo Meaning

A flicker tattoo usually represents creativity and purpose. This tattoo would be very fitting for someone who expresses themselves best through art.

A flicker tattoo may also represent hidden potential or inner beauty.

Conclusion

The flicker is a deeply impactful animal. Throughout North and Central America, people treasure these birds as symbols of the many places they call home. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that flickers are quite difficult to ignore. They fill the air with song and color, and leave telltale markings on trees.

A cousin of the flicker and fellow woodpecker, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, was recently proposed to be declared officially extinct after decades of unverifiable sightings. (9) This sad occasion came to your author’s mind when reading about the lovely flicker. The sad fact is that, as long as bird populations are threatened by human expansion, the ranks of the extinct will swell and biodiversity will dwindle. With this in mind, appreciation for the uniqueness of the flicker feels like a warning about what we may lose. It is painful to imagine a world in which the drumming of woodpeckers is no longer heard ringing through the trees. The bold and beautiful flicker is not endangered yet, but their populations have begun to decline. I think that, as thanks for the beauty that these birds give to all of us, we owe it to them to conserve them as best we can.

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13 thoughts on “Flicker Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”

  1. Is there a folklore saying about flickers?..”See your first flicker of fall, winter is near” “See your first flicker in winter,spring is near”….I thought I heard phases like that…

  2. A northern flicker hit my kitchen window. It seemed injured. So my husband and I put the bird save place with caution. When my husband went to check it flew out of the box and landed on my right shoulder for few seconds then flew away. Can you please tell me the meaning?

    1. Hailey Brophy

      It sounds like your little friend was still a bit unsteady after his window strike. In the future there are stickers and decals you can use to prevent window strikes which are a major cause of bird fatality. As for the meaning, I would interpret this as gratitude for surviving a scary situation and receiving help! Thanks for reading my article and I hope this helps!

      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

  3. Lea Worcester

    Hello, After reading your post, I’m hoping you might be able to help us.
    Yesterday I found the male Flicker my husband and I had been admiring all Spring, lifeless under our oak tree. His partner was by his side trying to revive him and flying wildly into the woods near us and back again. It was heartbreaking witnessing this and I was beside myself wondering how to help her. Eventually, we put the male in the freezer till we figure out how to handle the situation. The male showed no signs of being attacked by a cat or whatever. He was just laying there obviously dead.
    Could it have been the flu? Whatever the reason I am now questioning the spiritual aspect of this beautiful creature and wondering if it is an omen. Someone in our family recently passed on and tomorrow is the memorial. Could it be related? Are you familiar with the folklore regarding finding a dead Flicker in one’s yard?

    1. Hailey Brophy

      This sounds like a really sad situation. I’m sorry to hear about it. Currently, there is a pretty serious bird flu going around which may be the cause. Check with your state’s wildlife agency to see if they have a hotline for reporting deceased birds. If the bird was near a window at all this may be a contributor- consider window decals to prevent bird strikes. I would advise against touching deceased birds in the future and advise that you exercise caution and disinfect everything that has touched it. Bird flu only infects humans rarely but it is still zoonotic. Thank you for reading my article and I’m sorry that something so unfortunate happened near your home.

      I hope this helps!
      — Hailey Brophy

  4. Dear Hailey, Thank you so much for this Share, I put my dog of 15 years to sleep on Friday and yesterday I was blessed with 3 flickers in my yard , representing that all 3 of my dogs that had passed are together now beautiful comfort and blessings.I am not alone.Be Well my sister.

    1. I’m sorry for your loss, but glad that these lovely birds were there to bring you some comfort. I always find that birds bring joy and light into my life when I sorely need it. Thank you for reading my work!

      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

  5. I spotted a male flicker peering into a hole in my tree just off my deck. It wasn’t long before I realized there was a female inside peering out when the male was gone. This is the first time in my long life of bird watching That I have ever seen a flicker. After reading your article I am even more excited as I resonate with everything you wrote. Thank you for such a beautiful article. I am enthralled watching these sweet birds and so excited for the new life that will be appearing in that nest soon 💛

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed my article, thanks for reading! Hopefully you’ll get to see lots of young flickers soon!

      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

  6. I stumbled upon this article trying to identify these birds that appeared in my yard last week. I showed my wife this article which lifted her spirits after reading the association with the flicker and her illness she is going through right now. She commented that the flickers are here too help me heal.

    1. That’s lovely. I’m so glad the flickers arrived to bring you joy and comfort. I’m glad that my article was helpful for you and your wife!

      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

  7. I saw a flicker today for the first time in my life. It was in a cemetery and after reading this seems very fitting.
    Thank you 😊

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