Sunday, January 16, 2011

I feel like someone's watching me ... Creeper!

While out walking in the woods the other day, a strange feeling came over me. One that would have resonated with Rockwell, it felt like someone was watching me. Shortly afterwards a sound, reminiscent of breaking glass tinkled down from above. I looked up and sure enough, a "creeper" was looking down on me. 

Brown Creeper

Of course, I'm not talking about a tree-climbing pervert, I'm talking about the Brown Creeper, a small "beetle-shaped" insectivore that is wonderful adapted to life on the vertical, exploring the cracks and crevices of tree trunks and branches. Its tail feathers are stiffened like a woodpeckers to provide a support it can lean back down on, and its compact body shape keeps its centre of gravity close to the trunk. Its toes are not organised like most woodpeckers, with two backward facing toes, but rather in the style of most songbirds, with three forward facing toes and one backward facing toe. However the back toe has been equipped with an elongated claw to facilitate its life clinging to bark. Its bill is long, slender and curved to allow it to efficiently extract insects from the cracks and crevices as it explores. The upper-parts of the Brown Creeper are a dull brown in colour, mottled with white, creating an incredible cryptic effect where the bird simply blends in the bark is it moves about.

If you sit and watch one you'll, you can easily notice a pattern to its behaviour. It will fly to the base of a tree and then slowly work its way up the tree, picking out insects along the way. When it gets up high, rather than working its way back down again, as the Nuthatches can often be seen to do, it will instead fly to the base of a different tree and start the cycle all over again. It is a captivating bird to observe and listen to, a real treat to come across when walking through the woods, and one you can see surprisingly often if you stop and look. They are easily missed, but if you live in North American, they are probably found in your local patch of woodland.

Brown Creeper


  1. A beautiful little bird. I love to see our little Treecreepers in the UK.

  2. You're killin' me, Blobs: "it's compact body shape keeps it's centre-of-gravity"

    It's not the "centre" that throws me. I can handle those odd spellings that came with you across the pond.

    It's not the unnecessary hyphens in the noun phrase, either.

    It's the possessive its that you turned into contractions of it is. It pains me ALOT, Blobs. [/sarcasm][sort of]

  3. Bad-Luck-Mark The EDITOR has commented. I suggest you send Amy a copy for perusal before you post in future. :-)

    It looks just the same as our Treecreeper Certhia familiaris

  4. @amy illegal contractions terminated, unnecessary hyphens mercilessly crushed. Superior spelling retained. Thanks ALOT eagle eyes!

    @craig Are you kidding, complementary proofreading from a professional! That's great luck. You might be right about sending amy a copy though, or perhaps reading it back though, as she might suggest.

    Certhia americana is superficially very similar to C.familiaris. I'd hate to have to try and ID a vagrant over in the UK.

  5. I've only seen these twice in my life ..... you got some graet pics!!