Northern Flicker Spiritual Meaning 

Author: Tammy Poppie
Red-shafted flicker on a tree

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Northern Flicker Spiritual Meaning 

Author: Tammy Poppie
Red-shafted flicker on a tree

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

The northern flicker’s spiritual meaning has deep roots in cultures worldwide. Many groups have assigned the northern flicker with meaningful symbolism, including interpreting them as guardians, signs of friendship, happiness, and the arrival of visitors. 

Northern flickers are members of the woodpecker family characterized by their beauty and size. Birdwatchers are always on the lookout for them because of their range. 

They’re found year-round within most American states, some Canadian provinces, and parts of Mexico. 

They represent guidance, balance, creativity, strength, and more. To attract northern flickers to your yard, consider planting fruit-bearing trees, offering the foods they prefer, and having water available. 

Northern flickers are set apart from other woodpeckers mainly due to their feeding habits. They’re scavengers, meaning you’re most likely to see them eating ants and beetles on the ground. They dig the creatures up using their curved beaks. Yellow and red flickers are well-loved for their coloring throughout the world. 

The Northern Flicker as a Spirit Animal

northern flicker perched on branches
Northern flicker. Image by Scott from Pixabay

Spirit animals are guides in the form of animals. The concept of a spirit animal or spirit guide came from various Native American cultures and was originally known as a totem animal. These animals represent individuals and groups (including entire tribes and smaller families). Your spirit animal is the guide that helps you throughout your life and with which you share characteristics. 

Some common spirit animals are butterflies, crows, spiders, owls, hummingbirds, and hawks. Birds are one of the most popular. To find out what your spirit animal is, consider the following: 

  • The animals that appear in your dreams
  • The characteristics you share with animals
  • Reoccuring animals in your life 
  • Any animals that you feel particularly drawn to

Think the northern flicker might be your spirit animal? Then you are likely someone who has courage and resilience in difficult times. You have the various elements in your life balanced or at least attempt to keep your life in harmony. 

You’re also likely to be nurturing and creative. Spontaneity may be another trait you show in day-to-day life, as well as the ability to appreciate simple things and take joy from what others feel is mundane or boring. 

Northern Flicker Meaning

Northern flickers peeking out of tree cavity
Northern flickers. Photo by Mike Carmo.

You can spot the northern flicker throughout the United States. Their commonness has led to various meanings and symbols associated with bird sightings. The bird is an influential spiritual guide that can aid new changes and transitions. 

If you’re going through a difficult time, the bird may show itself as a guide or source of inspiration to embrace change to bring balance to your life. The bird is also a reminder to accept and love your differences and the simple things in life. 

Below are some of the many traits connected to the flicker.


The northern flicker is said to have the ability to inspire new elements of balance in people’s lives. If you see a flicker, you may consider the various parts of your life and feel a new sense of harmony with nature. 

If a flicker is your spirit animal, it may come into your life in a particularly unbalanced time. Its presence may help you come to terms with the many elements of your day-to-day life and find harmony in them. 

Strength and Courage 

Strength and courage to live an unconventional life are perhaps the most common traits associated with the northern flicker. Its red plumage is often seen as connected to courage and power. It is unafraid to defend its territory and sometimes ends up in harm’s way because of its unique courage and determination. 

In Chinese mythology, the bird is particularly associated with contending with difficult situations. It can withstand tough weather conditions and depends on its sharp curved beak to dig for food in the underbrush, meaning that some have also connected the bird to the trait of strength. 


Creativity is another interesting spiritual element associated with the northern flicker. Its brightly colored plumage may be a source of inspiration for those who see it. Often, sightings are connected to bursts of inspiration and the desire to express oneself differently. 


In many Native American cultures, the bird is seen as a healing guardian. Seeing the bird may be a good omen for what’s to come on an upcoming trip and help you feel safe about the journey. 

Some also feel a sense of comfort in having a flicker nearby, especially if they’re going through difficult changes in their life or are trying to regain control over the elements of their life. 


Fire is a very common element represented by the flicker. Various groups see it as a symbol of fire’s power, danger, and importance. 


Air is another common symbol the bird is associated with. Its beautiful spotted wings connect the bird to representations of air. This is particularly true when one sees the flicker flying. More often than not, you’ll come upon the bird scavenging on the ground. 

Northern Flicker Symbolism In Different Cultures

Northern flickers are only native to North America, so spiritual depictions of the birds are only on that continent. But, representations of woodpeckers can be found around the world. Of the many different depictions of the northern flicker, the vast majority come from Native American tradition. Many of their stories and legends generally concern the northern flicker and woodpeckers.

Native American

dream catcher representing bird meaning to native indians

Native American tribes throughout the country have various meanings associated with the northern flicker. Often, flickers are associated with healing and guardianship in Native American culture. Some tribes associate the red markings with fire.

In Hopi legend, the flicker is associated with guardianship, particularly when traveling south. Northern California tribes believe that if you see a flicker, you will receive a visitor soon. Some tribes consider the flicker a totem signifying healing and good health. It is also associated with transitions and new beginnings. Lenape tribes connect the flicker to nurturing traits and balance. 

In one Native American depiction of the flicker, according to Sacred Texts, the creature characterizes itself by describing its coloration, blue legs, the color of its eyes, and how loud it can sing.

In another Native American story called “The Sugar Maple,” a sugar maple tree, unable to scratch itches caused by beetles, calls out to the forest’s creatures to help him. Of all the creatures in the forest, no one could until the tree attracted the birds’ attention, specifically the woodpeckers. 

All the “cousins” of the woodpecker, including the flicker, were called to help. They picked every beetle and grub off the tree and stopped its itching. 

Time passed, and the sugar maple tree was able to return the favor. He told the woodpecker that he could drill some holes in his trunk and they would fill up with sap. The woodpecker did so and gratefully drank the delicious sugar maple syrup. This relationship, the legend suggests, has continued to this day, with the tree giving sap to the birds and the birds picking the bugs off the tree in return.


In Christian tradition, the flicker is commonly associated with resurrection, and woodpeckers are generally regarded as a testament to the existence of God, a representation of Jesus. The bird’s strength and resilience connect the small creature to the strength that all living things show daily. To some Christians, they represent God’s power in daily life and the uniqueness of his creation on earth. 

Celtic Mythology

celtic symbol celtic meaning

In Celtic mythology, northern flickers and other woodpeckers may be connected to the sun god Lugh and loyalty. The northern flicker mates for life, something uncommon in the animal world. Their dedication to one mate has also inspired representations of the bird as a symbol of eternity. 

As with other cultures, a bird with red coloring comes with special importance. Its coloring is associated with courage, and there are depictions of the bird in connection to a warrior mentality. 

Chinese Mythology

In Chinese mythology, woodpeckers like the flicker are a symbol of good luck, and healing, and, as within many Native American cultures, it’s associated with fire (due to their red coloring). 

Chinese culture and myth sometimes depict woodpeckers alongside dragons due to the birds’ hardiness and ability to withstand difficult weather conditions. Woodpeckers, and birds in general, are also sometimes related to new hope. 

Northern Flicker in Dreams

dream symbolism of birds
Image by Artie_Navarre from Pixabay

Common interpretations of birds are as symbols of personal goals and aspirations in dreams. They’re also often interpreted as a sign of hope in a time of darkness or your quest to feel free. There are a few darker interpretations as well. 

For instance, some bird dreams represent disappointment and loss. But, seeing a northern flicker in your dreams is not a cause for concern. Rather, you should look at the bird as an omen of uplifting change and perhaps, a sign of newfound courage or growth in spirituality in your day-to-day life.

The bird is a positive omen that brings change and guidance. If you dream about a flicker, you may be on the verge of positive internal insights and a newfound resilience in your day-to-day life. 

Northern flickers are well-known for their bright red coloring. These colors may surprise someone who hasn’t seen one before when the bird takes to the sky. It’s common to consider this element of surprise when interpreting dreams. 

Just as their red coloring may be surprising, if you see a flying flicker in your dream, you may soon encounter something unexpected in your life. But, don’t worry, it’s an indicator of a positive change, not a negative one. 

A northern flicker in your dreams may indicate that something seemingly mundane will bring joy to your life you weren’t expecting. Many people who consider flickers their spirit animals are capable of finding joy in the simplest parts of life. So too may you after seeing a red or yellow northern flicker in your dreams. 

Yellow Northern Flicker Spiritual Meaning

The yellow flicker, also known as yellow-shafted flicker or yellowhammer, is usually regarded as a symbol of good luck and change. If you see or hear a yellow flicker, you may encounter an unexpected change in your life or a visitor you didn’t plan on seeing. 

In some Native American tribes, particularly in Northern California, the yellow flicker symbolizes one person’s ability to become a healer. 

What Does It Mean When You See a Northern Flicker?

If you see a northern flicker, you’re likely facing an unexpected joy, change, or visitor in your life. Northern flickers are usually associated with joy in simple things, creativity, and unexpected transformations. 

Other interpretations suggest that northern flickers are a sign of courage and strength. Therefore, you may see one while enduring a particularly challenging period in your life. They bring the ability to withstand difficult situations, interpreted through their determined hunting habits and hardiness in various weather conditions. 

Woodpecker symbolism suggests that northern flickers are resilient, courageous, and overwhelmingly positive when they appear as signs in your life—seeing one may suggest that you’re soon to come upon new strength and courage in the face of an everyday obstacle. 

Are Northern Flickers Rare? 

No, northern flickers are widespread. They are common throughout North America, primarily within the United States. They have an estimated breeding population of around 12 million. They are of low concern for the IUCN. 

Northern flicker range map
Northern flicker range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

The only time these birds seem rare is because it is unusual for them to visit backyard bird feeders. However, you can attract them with things like suet and peanuts! Though, they are far happier digging through the dirt, looking for ants, grubs, and beetles. You’re more likely to see them while walking in the woods than when admiring your garden. 

If you want to seek out a northern flicker, try looking along the edge of the forest or woodland, spending time in a city park where there are trees and bushes for the birds to scavenge around, and seeking out grass-covered open fields. 

Final Thoughts

Consider Northern Flicker spiritual meanings whenever you spot one. Chances are, you’re bound to come across the beautiful woodpecker cousin sometime in your birdwatching career. Who knows? Maybe its presence might herald an exciting new change in your life.

What about you? Have you had a northern flicker encounter you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.

Happy bird watching!

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers. Read more about Tammy

4 thoughts on “Northern Flicker Spiritual Meaning ”

  1. Hi! Thanks for sharing! Less than an hour ago, one “visited” me. I reside in Columbus, Ohio but more specifically in Lewis Center. This is my first time ever seeing this type of bird and I had to search the type and meaning as I just knew it was a message from the Lord. Thanks to your post, I took many notes and have a suggested expectancy of what’s to come.

  2. I was just visited by a Northern Flicker and captured him in flight from security cameras on both the East and West sides of my house. Funny thing I just installed the security system and for five nights street the crazy neighbor has been flickering lights at the cameras at 2am to blind them in night vision. After three police visits I have had two days without a flicker of light at night followed by this visit from the Northern Flicker.

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