Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

photo from Wikipedia commons

This small bird looks and acts much like a Nuthatch or a Woodpecker, but the Brown Creeper, Certhia americana, is a separate species.  

Their mottled brown back blends in perfectly with the bark of trees. They have a white breast and a rather long, for their size, decurved beak. 

Their range includes all of the US and the southern portions of Canada. They do not occur above the treeline on the tundra in Canada. I guess that is for a pretty obvious reason, they live on trees!

Brown Creeper’s have a strong stiff tail, like Woodpeckers, that support them as they climb the tree and probe the bark for larvae and insects. That is unlike the Nuthatches who hardly have any tail at all – Nuthatches rely on their strong feet and legs to negotiate tree trunks.

The other curious thing that makes Brown Creepers unique is that they never go down the tree head first. After they have creeped all the way up the tree trunk, they will fly down to the bottom of the next tree and again work their way up.

You may see Brown Creepers here in the winter, but many go south in search of warmer weather. One way to find them is to listen for their little call notes. The tsee, tsee, tsee call is very high in pitch and very soft. They sound a lot like the seep, seep calls of White-throated Sparrows or Golden-crowned Kinglets, but in the winter you probably won’t encounter either of those 2 birds, so check out those tree trunks for the Brown Creeper! Outside of the breeding season, Creepers often flock with Chickadees and Nuthatches, although I’ve never seen one come into the feeders.

In late winter and early spring, they have a pretty little tinkling descending warble song that is a fairly common sound in the woods. Close inspection may find you the bird, or perhaps not, as they are very well camouflaged.

I was lucky enough one time to find a nest. The fledglings are what caught my attention; as they begged when the adult came close to feed them. The nest was located on the trunk of a large pine tree. A big branch created a crevice where a piece of bark had been pulled back to support a small nest. There were at least three young ones crowded into the small area.

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2 Responses to Brown Creeper

  1. I had a first ever brown creeper in my yard here in the Twin Cities last weekend. It was the call that caught my attention. It did take a while for me to spot the bird. Great photo.

  2. Vacation says:

    It is amazing how their soft little call notes can carry. I wish I had taken the above photo. I think Brown Creepers might be pretty hard to photograph.

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