Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

The short legs, long, curved claws and toes and stiff,  long, spine-tipped tail of the brown creeper (Certhia americana) make this tiny bird a good climber. Indeed, brown creepers are almost always found climbing trees while foraging for the insects and spiders that comprise the bulk of their diet.

Always active and in constant motion, brown creepers begin at the base of a tree and spiral up the trunk searching for food amid the bark crevices. Once near the tree top they fly down to the base of the next tree and begin their upward spiral again. Their preferred habitat is mature coniferous or mixed forests, particularly old-growth forests. Occasionally, especially in the winter, brown creepers will visit suburban bird feeders.

The only member of the creeper family in North America, the brown creeper is a year-long resident in much of its range. Those creepers living at high latitudes or elevations migrate short distances in the winter to lower latitudes or elevations. Brown creepers are resident where we live in Modoc County CA.

Both sexes of brown creeper look the same with upper parts streaked buff, brown and black while the under parts are white with a buff or tawny rump. There is a distinctive white streak over the eye. The long, slender bill curves downward. When the brown creeper senses danger it presses against the tree bark and freezes, very effectively camouflaging itself. Unless in motion, the brown creeper is very difficult to see.

I have never seen a brown creeper nest! Some day I will find the hammock-shaped nest which it builds under a loose flap of bark on a dead or dying tree. During the breeding season brown creepers aggressively defend their territories, but during the winter will flock with chickadees or nuthatches.

I photographed this brown creeper along Lower Hat Creek (Shasta County CA) a couple of days ago. I have tried for a long time to get a good brown creeper picture, yet success continues to elude me. To keep Leonard, who is anxious for me to do a brown creeper post, happy. . . .

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