Brown Creeper

Certhia americana
A Brown Creeper specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (5 inches), strangely-shaped tree-dwelling bird, the Brown Creeper is most easily identified by its mottled brown back, short legs, and long, curved bill. Other field marks include a brown tail, white breast, and white eye-stripes. Male and female Brown Creepers are similar to one another in all seasons. The Brown Creeper breeds in the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada, along the west coast from Alaska to California, and at higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains. This species also breeds in the mountains of central Mexico and locally south to Nicaragua. In winter, this species withdraws from more northern portions of its breeding range, and may be found more widely across the southern U.S. and on the Great Plains. Brown Creepers breed primarily in old-growth evergreen forests, but may also breed in deciduous forests at the southern limits of their range. In winter, this species may be found more frequently in deciduous forests and forests with younger trees. Brown creepers primarily eat bark-dwelling insects, with small amounts of seeds eaten during the winter when insects are scarce. The feeding behavior of the Brown Creeper is unique among birds in North America. Brown Creepers are most frequently observed “creeping” up the sides of large trees, probing the deeply-furrowed bark with their bills to extract insect prey. After reaching the top of the main trunk, Brown Creepers will fly to the base of another nearby tree and start again. With the aid of binoculars, it may also be possible to identify Brown Creeper nests wedged behind peeling pieces of bark. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Fairly common winter visitor, October to April. Found in most habitats in this area. Creeps up the trunks of trees. Sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC27716 Certhia americana (Brown Creeper)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67183 Certhia americana (Brown Creeper)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC70721 Certhia americana (Brown Creeper)