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Brown Creeper

Certhia americana ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CERTHIIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Brown Creepers are tiny woodland birds with an affinity for the biggest trees they can find. Look for these little, long-tailed scraps of brown and white spiraling up stout trunks and main branches, sometimes passing downward-facing nuthatches along the way. They probe into crevices and pick at loose bark with their slender, downcurved bills, and build their hammock-shaped nests behind peeling flakes of bark. Their piercing calls can make it much easier to find this hard-to-see but common species.

Merlin Bird ID app
Birds of North America Online

Songs

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.

Calls

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.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Though they eat mostly insects, in winter Brown Creepers will eat suet and peanut butter, and occasionally sunflower seeds, pine seeds, grass seeds, and corn. You’re more likely to see them if there are large, old trees nearby.

Find This Bird

Brown Creepers are well camouflaged and inconspicuous against tree bark in a shady forest, but if you keep your eyes peeled for movement, you may find a creeper zigzagging upward as it gleans insects from the trunk, or see the small shape of one dropping from high on a trunk to the base of a nearby tree. Once learned, the high, insistent call note can alert you to the presence of these birds. Look for Brown Creepers in mature woods, if possible, though you can also find them in parks and suburban areas in the winter.