About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The cryptic Brown Creeper

Little brown creepers imitate a piece of detached bark moving up a tree trunk. They are year-round residents in mid-Michigan but might be easier to see in the winter.

Creepers are small birds, just more than 5 inches long, with a streaky brown head, back and tail. The bill is thin and curves downward, just right for probing under tree bark. The white dots on the wings add to their camouflage.

The brown creeper usually forages up a tree trunk (never down), in a series of hops, often circling the tree as it ascends. It has sharp tips on the ends of its stiff tail feathers that help prop it against the trunk.

It favors trees with larger trunks whose deeply furrowed bark has more hiding places for the creeper to probe and pry, looking for insect eggs, larvae, spiders or hibernating insects. When the creeper has gone as high as it wants on one tree, it flies to the base of another tree and begins its upward climb again.

The brown creeper often gathers with black-capped chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, dark-eyed juncos and downy woodpeckers in mixed flocks early in the winter. They can use empty woodpecker holes or bird houses as an overnight roost in the winter, sometimes communally.

In Michigan, they breed from May through July. A pair of creepers working together begin to build a unique nest under a flap of loose bark. The male helps gather material that the female uses to attach a hammock-like sling to the underside of the bark, and then she builds a nest cup in the hammock. The entrance to the nest is usually at the bottom, the exit often at the top.

When the nest is ready, the female lays an egg each morning until she has a clutch of five or six. The eggs are white, about 5/8 inch long, with pink or reddish-brown spots at the large end. The female incubates the eggs for the next 15 days. The male brings her food while she sits on the nest.

All the eggs hatch on the same day and both adults feed the babies until they fledge in about 17 days. The parents are cautious when approaching the nest, making several preliminary stops to divert the attention of any predator that might be watching. They spend an average of less than three seconds in the nest while feeding.

There are many species of creepers in Europe in Europe and Asia but the Brown Creeper is the only member of its family found in North America.

Thank you Lynn for sharing your wonder Brown Creeper photo!

Related Articles:
- Creeper Spotted Lurking Behind Tree in Mid-Michigan Backyard! http://goo.gl/ZoNpeF
- Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/Ammr6W
- Fun Facts on Nuthatches http://bit.ly/wWa6fD
- Why should we care about birds? http://bit.ly/xFTNKk
- Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/rqpUCq

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