Brown Creeper

The Brown Creeper is a small songbird that can be found in some of the largest trees in the dense woodlands of North America. They are elusive birds and one can catch glimpses of them as they whizz around the thick trunks and branches of their nesting trees. Their plumes do well to keep them camouflaged from potential predators as they glean insects from the trunk and bark, but avid observers can catch them zigzagging upwards occasionally during their feeding times. These birds tend to go unnoticed easily until their sharp calls pierce through the foliage to catch the attention of their surrounding flocks.

About Brown Creepers

These woodland birds span throughout the coniferous and deciduous forests of North America, with most populations migrating southwards during the winters to escape the food scarcities that harsher climates bring. As migration seasons ensue, they stick to the dense woodlands found across the central regions of the continent. However, not all populations migrate. Some flocks found along the Rocky Mountains are year-long residents and perpetually inhabit the dense woods in and around the ranges.

While Brown Creepers seem like any other passerine birds, their inconspicuous appearance should not fool you. These tree creepers are just as fascinating as any other bird. Some interesting facts about these birds are the way they nest, with many often choosing to create their hammock-shaped nests in unusual places like behind window shutters. While they are best suited for their woodland habitats, they can be versatile in adapting to new environments due to their simple requirements and their plain appearances. Today we want to talk about these unique birds in detail. By the end of this article, you might be able to identify these evasive songbirds the next time you are close to their habitats!

● Brown Creepers Photos, Colour Pattern, Song
● Brown Creepers Size, Eating behavior, Habitat
● Brown Creepers Range and Migration, Nesting


Brown Creeper Color Pattern

Brown Creepers are not sexually dimorphic in color, with the plumages of adults of both sexes looking alike. Adults have a basic plumage. Their upperparts are brown with dull streaks, white marks on their head, back, feathers on top of their wings, and their wings. They have creamy white or buff stripes that extend from their beaks
to the back of their heads, resembling “eyebrows” due to their proximity to the eyes of the birds. Their underparts display softer hues of white that are washed with cinnamon shades at the ends. These colors help them blend into their surroundings and strongly resemble the tree bark that they nestle under. They camouflage so well that sometimes they look like a piece of bark coming to life and crawling away upwards.

Juveniles resemble adults in their plumages and also have brown upper parts. However, their upper parts are duller and are marked with paler streaks and spots. While their wings are pale with brown markings. Their underparts are typically dusky and whitish with a very little brown.

Description and Identification

Brown Creepers have evolved to be inconspicuous and to blend in with their surroundings in order to survive. This makes finding and identifying them tricky for bird enthusiasts. Luckily, these birds are the only Creepers in North America, this easily distinguishes them from every other North American bird. If one hopes to spot one, they must keep their ears open for their shrill, sharp calls.

They have small, lanky bodies that are almost always against the trunk of a tree, blending in with the bark. As North America’s only Creeper, these birds crawl upwards rather than take flight, making them significantly easier to identify. Their plumages should resemble the tree bark that surrounds them, but upon closer observation, their streaked backs give them away. However, finding the birds at a closer view can get tricky as they sometimes crawl under the thin strips of bark when they sense danger. During their breeding seasons, they are easier to spot than in the other seasons. Males may perform rapid and twisting movements while they are in flight as a courtship ritual. They typically continue to display these extravagant movements as they pursue females in the air and around tree trunks. After breeding, however, these birds go back to their elusive lifestyles.

Brown Creeper Song

The songs of Brown Creepers are by far one of their most distinguishable features. They have extremely high-pitch voices that travel large distances due to the high frequency of their calls. These calls can often be short, insistent, and reedy, often sounding like “see”, or “swee”. While their songs are high and thin, they can be surprisingly delicate as well. Another good analogy would be to compare it with the tinkle of a small chain being dropped into a heap.

Social calls are audible throughout the year by both the sexes and can be especially prominent while they forage. Although the context of their calls is still largely under-researched, there is a variety of them that can be still heard as they engage in different activities. In-flight, they give out a brief “tsit” and a sharp “tseet-tseet”. Birds during courtship may let out a “pee pee willow wee” or “see tidle swee”, with notes similar to the calls. Young nestlings and fledglings typically give out a begging sound that resembles a chee, while a warning call when intruders are near the nest may sound like “tsee, tsee tsee”, or a “tsee su tsee”. Their call notes are nearly identical to those of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Mexican Chickadees.

Brown Creeper Size

Brown Creepers are tiny songbirds that are considered to be small even for songbirds. They are roughly 4.7-5.5 inches in length with a wingspan of approximately 6.7-8 inches, making them Sparrow-sized or even smaller sometimes. They have a lanky build that is highlighted by their long, spine-tipped tails and their slender, decurved bills. These birds are slim and typically weigh between 0.2-0.3 ounces. While these birds are not sexually dimorphic in appearance, they differ in the lengths of their bills as males typically tend to have longer bills than their female counterparts.

Brown Creeper Behavior

These songbirds can be found foraging on tree trunks and branches, usually spiraling upwards from the bottom of a tree trunk before flying down to the bottom of another tree. They are Creepers and slowly hitch upwards in a spiral in short, jerky motions while using their stiff tails for support. As they move towards a new tree, they weakly fly to the base and continue to climb upwards. While they are on tree trunks, they hop with their heads up with their legs held on either side of their body. During their hops, their feet move in unison while their head and anterior parts of the body are directed upwards and towards the tree trunk. This results in their head ducking after each hop.

They are weak fliers and only undertake short-distance flights between tree trunks when they forage. Males fly from perch to perch as they engage in territorial singing but may also fly in a series of rapid spirals while they pursue their mates during courtship.

Roosting members of a family group usually gather in a tight circle and point their bills inward while keeping their wings on their necks and their shoulders fluffed. Sometimes they can be observed with their bill tucked under their scapular feathers as well. Each night, a different roost is used but they are all generally placed on the trunk of other trees. Adults always roost separately from the young, although some females may roost alongside their nestlings in the first few days following the hatching of the eggs.

Brown Creeper Diet

During the breeding seasons, Brown Creepers eat insects and their larvae. Their insect prey mainly includes stinkbugs, fruit flies, gnats, beetles, weevils, bark beetle parasitoids, butterflies, moths, lacewings, caddisflies, scale insects, leafhoppers, katydids, flat-bugs, plant lice, ants, and sawflies. They may also consume anthropods like spiders, spider eggs, and pseudoscorpions. Although this is their primary diet, they also feed on the seeds found around their habitats.

Brown Creeper Habitat

These Creepers prefer forests that host large populations of live coniferous and deciduous trees. The trees tend to be large as they typically forage throughout the mass of the tree. For nesting purposes, they tend to opt for large loose-barked trees that are often dead or dying. Their summertime habitats are usually mature coniferous forests, with the tree species varying greatly throughout its range. The most commonly used tree species tend to be redwood, Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, spruce, eastern hemlock, white pine, and bald cypress.

During the winter seasons, they move towards a far wider range of wooded habitats. These can range from deciduous forests and orchards to suburban areas and parks. Populations residing in northern Texas and the Midwest are abundant in oak-hickory forests and tree savannas. Throughout North America, they can be found at an elevation up to 4,500 feet but some flocks in the West may breed all the way up to the treeline at around 11,000 feet.

Range and Migration

These birds have a vast range in North America, spanning from southern Canada through all of the United States and portions of Mexico and Central America. Populations that reside in the southern portions of their range are permanent residents and do not migrate. However, flocks in the northern areas of their range in Canada can migrate as far south as North Carolina and Arkansas during the winters. Flocks that reside in high-altitude areas also undertake short-distant migrations to lower elevations during the winter. In many cases, vagrants have been found in Bermuda and in Central America’s mountains in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Brown Creeper Lifecycle

Breeding seasons commence with the males singing in order to attract a mate. Once he has successfully found a mate, they both fly around and flutter their wings while chasing each other. During the courtship period, the male also feeds the female while she is nesting. Females typically lay 4-6 whitish eggs but can sometimes lay up to 8 eggs as well. The
the incubation period lasts for 14-17 days and the young leave the nest about 13-16 days after hatching.


Potential nest sites are scouted by both adults, but it is unclear which member of the pair makes the final selection. The site is almost always selected at a spot between the trunk and a loose piece of bark on a large, dead, or dying tree. The trees themselves are typically deciduous or coniferous in a dense tree stand. Sometimes, they may be found nesting in large live trees with peeling bark or in the dead portions of live trees. This indicates that they require the inner layers of bark for nesting, a trait that is usually found in dead trees rather than healthy ones. The nests can be anywhere between a couple of feet off the ground and 40 feet high.

The construction of the nest is undertaken by the female while the male aids in bringing nesting materials. When not bringing materials, the male can often be found singing nearby. The construction begins with the female building a frame by layering twigs and strips of bark, insect cocoons, and spider egg cases are often used to stick those materials to each other and to the inner surface of the tree bark. The main cup consists of wood fibers, spider egg cases, hair, feathers, grass, pieces of leaves, lichens, and mosses with the resulting structure being 2.5 inches deep and 6 inches across. Sometimes, they reuse materials from the base to build the nest cup.

Anatomy of a Brown Creeper

Adult Brown Creepers are small birds that have proportions similar to that of a common Sparrow. They have a long, thin bill that has a slight downward curve. They also have a long, stiff tail that is used for support as they creep along tree trunks. Males tend to have a slightly larger bill than females, but their sizes remain similar.

Final Thoughts

These evasive birds can be found by attentive birdwatchers in coniferous and deciduous woodlands throughout the United States. However, their populations have not been doing very well outside of Washington since 1966. While there has been a gradual decline in most of the country, populations that reside in Washington have increased by an average of 1.5% every year since the late 1960s according to annual bird surveys.

They are particularly vulnerable to deforestation, logging, and climate change as it leads to habitat loss for them. Another concern is also the replacement of their preferred tree species by ponderosa pines. However, they are not considered to be a species of serious concern and are classified under Least Concern. If you stay in and around Washington, you might encounter the calls of these birds and may even find them in your local suburban parks from
a distance!


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for IdentifyingBrown Creepers

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Brown Creepers are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Brown Creeper Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Brown Creeper. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders ForBrown Creepers

There are many types of bird feeders. Bird feeders are a great addition to your backyard. Bird feeders will increase the chances of attracting birds drastically. Both kids and adults will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. There are a wide variety of bird feeders on the market and it is important to find the best fit for you and your backyard.

Bird HousesForBrown Creepers

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. If you spend a little extra money on bird houses, it will be well worth every penny and they’ll look great.

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