Daily Archives: January 13, 2013

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Brown Creeper/Certhia americana

Family: Certhidae

Order: Passeriformes

Description: Length 5-5 3/4″ (13-15 cm) ADULT Has brownish upperparts heavily marked with pale teardrop spots on crown, face, and back; note the bold whitish supercilium. Short wings have buffy barring, and rump and base of tail are rufous. Underparts are whitish overall, with buff wash on flanks and undertail. Variation exists in precise hue of upperparts (ranging from grayish to rufous), even within the same regional populations. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but with faint barring on chest.

Voice: Only the male sings, and usually only on the breeding grounds, though sometimes during migration as well. His song is a jumble of high, thin notes that lasts up to 1.5 seconds. It’s sometimes likened to singing the phrase trees, beautiful trees. Creepers may join single songs together two or three times in a row. Although the delicate song carries well through the woods the thin, high notes can be easily missed. Males and females make high, wavering call notes that sound like a small chain being dropped into a heap; these notes are noticeably longer than the very short call notes of many other birds. Creepers give these calls all year long and especially while foraging. Their calls can be hard to distinguish from the calls of Golden-crowned Kinglets. They use other variations of calls during flight, courtship chases, courtship feeding rituals, and aggressive interactions.

Habitat: Widespread and fairly common in forest habitats; resident in parts of northeast, but northern birds migrate south for winter.

Nesting: The female takes a week or two to build the nest, while the male helps by bringing nesting material (he often sings nearby). She builds the frame of the nest by layering twigs and strips of bark. She uses insect cocoons and spider egg cases to stick those materials to each other and to the inner surface of the tree bark. The nest cup, up to 2.5 inches deep and 6 inches across, consists of wood fibers, spider egg cases, hair, feathers, grass, pieces of leaves, lichens, and mosses. Some of the materials may be used twice, once to build the base and later taken from the base to build the nest cup. Both adults investigate several possible nest sites. They almost always choose a spot between the trunk and a loose piece of bark on a large, dead or dying tree—either deciduous or coniferous—in a dense tree stand. They occasionally nest in large live trees with peeling bark or in dead portions of live trees. Nests are between a couple of feet off the ground and 40 feet up.




  • The naturalist W.M. Tyler, writing in 1948, captured this species’ energy and fragility in a memorable description, “The Brown Creeper, as he hitches along the bole of a tree, looks like a fragment of detached bark that is defying the law of gravitation by moving upward over the trunk, and as he flies off to another tree he resembles a little dry leaf blown about by the wind.”
  • The Brown Creeper builds a hammock-like nest behind a loosened flap of bark on a dead or dying tree. It wasn’t until 1879 that naturalists discovered this unique nesting strategy.
  • In Arizona, Brown Creeper nests often have two openings, one which serves as an entrance and the other as an exit. Entrances face downward and exits upward.
  • Sometimes creepers build nests in unusual places, such as behind window shutters, in or under roofs, inside fenceposts, or inside concrete blocks. One brought up a family in a specially constructed box made of pieces of Douglas-fir bark.
  • Wildlife managers sometimes use the Brown Creeper as an indicator species to help gauge the effects of logging on wildlife habitat.
  • Brown Creepers burn an estimated 4–10 calories (technically, kilocalories) per day, a tiny fraction of a human’s daily intake of about 2,000 kilocalories. By eating a single spider, a creeper gains enough energy to climb nearly 200 feet vertically.
  • The oldest Brown Creeper on record was at least 4 years, 5 months old and lived in Illinois.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/ http://www.allaboutbirds.com