Wild Profile: Meet the brown creeper

Published: January 5, 2021

A brown creeper clinging to a tree trunk By Hayley Crews/Shutterstock

The small, stealthy brown creeper may be one of our most plain-looking birds, but it’s definitely interesting. With mottled brown plumage, it easily blends in to the tree trunks where it, well, creeps. Brown creepers methodically hitch their way up tree trunks—the larger the better—in a spiral pattern, probing for insects under the bark. They use their long, curved beaks to find insects, spiders, and eggs, their sharply-clawed talons to safely grip the tree, and their stiff tails to help prop themselves up.

A birder’s guide to binoculars

Unlike some other tree-climbing species, such as nuthatches, brown creepers only climb up. Once they’ve thoroughly foraged one tree, they drop to the ground, and head to the base of another one. They’re methodical, moving from tree to tree. These little birds are so inconspicuous that they have no trouble foraging close to people. (They’re even known to—accidentally—creep up human pant legs. Yikes!) Don’t worry. If spooked, a brown creeper will spread its wings and flatten its body, hoping to blend in with whatever it’s climbing.

Creepers spend almost all of their lives on trees. Parents will build tiny, crescent shaped nests wedged beneath loose bark. Baby birds can scamper up trees within 10 days of being born. They learn to climb before they learn to fly.

Not all brown creepers migrate. In winter, those that stick around can benefit from bird feeders. They prefer suet and peanut butter, but they’ll also go for sunflower seeds, pine seeds, and corn. If you have a lot of old, large trees on your property, you’re more likely to attract them.

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