Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
By Josh Hill

Birding at Work:
What the Treasurer sees from his office every day

Brown Creeper by Tracey Setze

The Brown Creeper is a little bird with special behavior that distinguishes itself from other “winter birds” in Indiana. It is “One of a kind in North America” but eight similar species globally. It’s a hopper, it’s a hugger, it’s a spiral “one way up” American Tree Creeper.

I say winter birds because that is generally when I see them working their way up the trunk of my giant Chinquapin Oak outside my office window. The leaves are gone. They seem to arrive with the first snows, generally after the Juncos. They migrate into Indiana “opportunistically” generally short distances from the Great Lakes States.

Brown Creepers a.k.a American Tree Creepers breed mostly in Canada in the lower “Boreal Forest” and reside full time across the Great Lakes states and at higher elevation in PA and WVA migrating to the to the warmer climes of Indiana. Some move from Canada down as far as the southern states with winter populations recorded as far south as Central America. Some move “down hill” to more temperate environments as well. From SE Alaska and from tree line out west to the plains and the delta region it is widely dispersed across the USA but rare in Florida

When you’re looking for these cuties look for “twitchy movement”. It is their give away. They literally “hop up the tree in a spiral motion” picking and probing for bugs, eggs, spiders and the occasional side trip to a suet cake using their “Down Curved Bill” . They prop themselves with their tail feathers like woodpeckers and then hop to the next position “upstream”. They have large feet that splay wide to grip the bark as they hop. See Photo. When at the top of their spiral hunt they “fly down to the next spot” and start all over. Spiral up, and up, hopping, picking and probing. Fly back down. It is rare to see them go down like Nuthatches do.

Smaller than a Nuthatch, bland in color, brown/gray on top and buffy white below, larger than a Golden Crown Kinglet it is “their behavior that gives them away”. They do have a little stipe over the eye but not to be confused with a Carolina Wren who is brown and noisy. My hearing is weak so I’d say for those of you who bird by ear, listen for high squeaky “Tszee” sounds which I don’t hear inside. The Wren I hear inside the house from next door. I’ve been meaning to put a microphone outside my window pointed at the tree but that’s a story and project for another day.

Self Defense: Their Camo colors provide great protection as they “Flatten” themselves against the trunk of the tree and “Freeze”, blending in like a bump on a log when a hawk or owl or predator arrives.

Breeding and Nesting We don’t get to see here in Indiana but their populations are secure and they are increasing slightly according to breeding bird surveys. They like Conifers for nesting sites and big mature woods with rough bark trees for their dining.

That it for now…Back to work…but with an eye on my tree…

1 Comment
  1. Douglas K. Sherow 3 years ago

    Nice article on the Creeper Josh.

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