A NACA 0015 airfoil with and without a Gurney flap was studied in a wind tunnel with Rec = 2.0 × 105 in order to examine the evolving flow structure of the wake through time-resolved PIV and to correlate this structure with time-averaged measurements of the lift coefficient. The Gurney flap, a tab of small length (1–4% of the airfoil chord) that protrudes perpendicular to the chord at the trailing edge, yields a significant and relatively constant lift increment through the linear range of the CL versus α curve. Two distinct vortex shedding modes were found to exist and interact in the wake downstream of flapped airfoils. The dominant mode resembles a Kàrmàn vortex street shedding behind an asymmetric bluff body. The second mode, which was caused by the intermittent shedding of fluid recirculating in the cavity upstream of the flap, becomes more coherent with increasing angle of attack. For a 4% Gurney flap at α = 8°, the first and second modes corresponded with Strouhal numbers based on flap height of 0.18 and 0.13. Comparison of flow around ‘filled’ and ‘open’ flap configurations suggested that the second shedding mode was responsible for a significant portion of the overall lift increment.