top of page

Brown Creeper

Common Name: Brown Creeper.

Scientific Name: Certhia Americana.

What to look for?  A piece of bark that has come to life! Brown Creepers are tiny, long-tailed, cryptically colored woodland birds. Their wings, head, and back are dark-brown with white, gray, and black streaks. The patterns on their body are mottled. Their brownish heads show a broad, buffy stripe (supercilium) over the eye. Their underparts are usually white. Their tail is long and stiff tail like a woodpecker’s that helps to prop themselves up as they climb trees. The males and the females are identical, other than the length of their decurved bills. Both sexes have slender, downcurved beaks or bills, but the males have a bill that is a little longer than the females. They also have long, curved claws which aid in creeping up tree trunks.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Due to their camouflaging appearance, you may miss a Brown Creeper right in front of you. Brown Creepers are around here from late Fall into late Spring scampering up – but never down - the trunk of our more mature trees foraging for insects.

How big are they? Tiny. The Brown Creeper averages around five (5) inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately seven (7) inches. They weigh in at around one quarter (0.25) of an ounce.

What are their flight patterns? Brown Creepers are strong, short duration flyers. They sometimes can be seen flying in circles around a tree close to the bark. And when they are foraging, they move from the top of one tree to the base of another by flying slowly.

How else do they behave? Brown Creepers are most identified by their unique foraging behavior. They spend most of its time spiraling up tree trunks in search of insects, but rarely climb downward. Once it gets high in a tree, it flies down to the base of a nearby tree and will begin a new ascent. They creep up - hence, their name - a tree with short, jerky motions using their stiff tails for support while hooking into the bark with their long, curved claws. When Brown Creepers see or hear a predator, they freeze and silently and motionlessly press against the bark camouflaging themselves.

What’s for dinner? Brown Creepers eat insects and their larvae along with spiders, spider eggs, and pseudoscorpions that they find harbored in the deeply furrowed bark of mature trees.

Where do they take up residence? Brown Creepers are found throughout North America from Canada, through most of the U.S., including Alaska, and into Mexico. They prefer forests and woodlands with many large live trees for foraging and large loose-barked - often dead or dying - trees for nesting. Here in Illinois and the Midwest, Brown Creepers are particularly common in oak-hickory forests and woodlands.

When and where do they breed and nest? The breeding range of the Brown Creepers extends from western Alaska, throughout Canada and across the northern U.S. Breeding season is during the Spring. During courtship, males sing to attract a mate. The pair then chases each other while rapidly fluttering their wings and exposing their white undersides. Their nests resemble hammocks and are strung between the trunk and a loose piece of bark on a dead tree. Females lay up to six (6) eggs. Incubation is completed in approximately two (2) weeks. The young leave the nest about three (3) weeks.

Where do they migrate? Over most of their breeding range, Brown Creepers do not migrate, although the northern most populations move south in winter. In Illinois, the Brown Creeper is a migrant and winter resident statewide – late Fall into late Spring. However, it rarely stays during the warm summer months.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern. Brown Creeper populations were stable over the last five decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 9.3 million with 65% of Brown Creepers spending some of the year in the U.S., 43% in Canada, and 8% wintering in Mexico. They rate an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. Brown Creepers are protected under the US Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The call of the Brown Creeper is a long, high-pitched, wavering notes. Similar to the tinkling sound of a metal chain. Here is a link to the sounds of the Brown Creeper.

Interesting Facts About the Brown Creeper:

  • The name Brown Creeper comes from the way this bird “creeps” up trees while foraging for insects.

  • The mottled brown colors of the Brown Creeper allow it to camouflage against the bark of trees. When threatened by a predator, these birds spread their wings and freeze in place against a tree trunk, becoming virtually invisible against the bark. They remain completely motionless until the threat passes.

  • In 1948, the naturalist W.M. Tyler wrote: “The Brown Creeper, as he hitches along the bole of a tree, looks like a fragment of detached bark that is defying the law of gravitation by moving upward over the trunk, and as he flies off to another tree, he resembles a little dry leaf blown about by the wind.”

  • Brown Creepers are the only tree creepers that can be found in North America.

  • The oldest Brown Creeper on record was was over five (5) year old.

For more information on the Brown Creeper and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society, Illinois DNR, University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, American Bird Conservancy, and Missouri Department of Conservation. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

bottom of page