Brown Creeper

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Brown Creeper
Brown Creeper
Photo by: 
Jim Gorski

One of the trickiest little birds to find in our woodlands each fall and winter has to be the Brown Creeper. Their small size, cryptic brown color and slow moving, tree-hugging liftstyle provide them with excellent concealment.

While they are hard to spot and even harder for most of us to hear (high-pitched and squeekie), once you do spot them, they are quite entertaining to watch. Their long, slender, down-curved bills are use to probe the nooks and crannies of many kinds of tree bark. What’s so entertaining about that?

It isn’t so much the what as it is the how. When you spot one of these guys “hitching” up the side of a tree, you first notice that he is going up the tree in corkscrew pattern. Around and around he goes. When he gets high up in the tree he quickly flies back toward the ground landing near the base of a nearby tree and process starts all over again. During his climb he is constantly sticking his bill and tongue into crevises of the bark in hopes of finding an insect or larvae.

Brown creepers are North America’s only representative from a group of 7 species worldwide known as Creepers. Though their habits and body structure are similar to woodpeckers they are not closely relat - ed to them.

Their legs are quite short but their nails are long, especially the back facing one. This helps the birds cling to trees as does their rigid tail feathers.

They nest is larger stands of conifers or mixed conifer/hardwoods to our north and west and are pretty widespread in their distribution.

While they are primarily insectivores, I have seen them visit suet, especially when it is smeared directly to the bark of a tree.

By Mark McKellar

WINTER 2014