Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
By: Cathy Conroy
Date: July 7, 2000
I am into small things in nature. When everyone else notices large, charismatic animals, I find myself watching the tiniest insect or bird. One of my favorite birds, the Brown Creeper, is just a little guy that most people never notice. Weighing in at 8 or 9 grams, (less than an Oreo cookie) these tiny birds are found in mature forests where they explore the trunks of trees and tops and bottoms of branches looking for insects and larvae.
The unusual feeding preference of creepers has led to some interesting adaptations. To facilitate their bark-gleaning habits, creepers have long, sharp claws for clinging to the outer bark of trees. In fact, creepers will roost all night clinging to the side of a tree. Their bills are long and curved, like a slender pair of tweezers – perfect for probing bark crevices.
Although they are unrelated, both creepers and woodpeckers have bristly, stiffened tail feathers – allowing the tail to be used as a prop while the bird climbs and probes. Unlike their relative, the nuthatch, who descends trees head-down in search of food, creepers will fly down to the base of a conifer and “creep” their way upwards in a spiral, probing the outer bark in search of ants, moths and caterpillars.
If you want to see this secretive little bird, try listening for its light and high-pitched “see see see whee-see” song in conifer forests around Whistler (Lost Lake trail is a good place to start). Or, if you have conifer trees in your yard, you can try placing a mixture of peanut-butter, corn meal and suet in the crevices of the bark at about head level.