Photo courtesy Charles Martinez
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the brown creeper.
Hidden within the deep furrows of tree bark are insects and spiders in different stages of their life cycles. Eggs, larvae, pupae and adult forms can all be found in this environment. The brown creeper is one of the tree-hugging songbirds that spends its time, much like a woodpecker, uncovering these food sources in order to survive.
Several adaptations make this bird designed for climbing upward to forage on the trunks of large trees. Short legs set on either side of the body; long, curved claws; a long, stiff tail; and a long, decurved, thin bill allow the creeper to cling to the bark and probe in the cracks as it spirals head first up the tree. Brown creepers and white-breasted nuthatches utilize two-way routes, creepers traveling up and nuthatches down, in search of the same food sources.
Camouflage makes these small, common birds easy to miss. Streaky brown and white plumage on their backs blends in perfectly with the bark of the coniferous trees where they spend their time. When a threat is perceived, the brown creeper will hide its white belly against the tree trunk, spread its wings and freeze in place, becoming virtually invisible.
Although these birds are primarily insectivorous in all seasons, in residential areas with large, old trees they will come to feeders to eat suet, peanut butter and some seeds in winter. In many parts of their range from North America to Central America they are resident birds. Habitat requirements include large, live trees for foraging and dead and dying trees for nesting behind loose bark.
The abundance of brown creepers is sometimes used to gauge the effects of logging practices on forest health. The spring bird monitoring project conducted by Weminuche Audubon members in local forests contributes to this understanding locally.
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