Brown Creeper

Common Name: Brown Creeper
Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes
Family: Certhiidae
Genus: Certhia
Species: Certhia americana

Photo: Melissa Grippin



The Brown Creeper is the only member of the creeper family, Certhiidae, found in North America and one of the most inconspicuous songbirds on the continent. Its Latin name, Certhia americana, can be translated to creeper of the Americas. The Brown Creeper is almost indistinguishable from its Old World cousin, the Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), and they were long considered to be the same species. Its pattern of brown feathers with hints of white camouflages the bird with the bark of the tree making it very difficult to detect. The Brown Creeper has a bold, brownish-white supercilium, white under belly, and a down curved bill. Both male and female species are very similar except that the male on average has a slightly larger bill than the female.

Photo: Melissa Grippin


Although the Brown Creeper is difficult to detect, its distribution is widespread in coniferous and coniferous-deciduous forests throughout North America from Alaska and Canada south to northern Nicaragua. The Brown Creeper is generally considered a year-round resident throughout most of its range, however many northern breeding populations migrate south as they appear in locations outside of their breeding range.Its diet consists mainly of a variety of insects and larvae, and spiders and their eggs during the breeding season, but during the winter, Brown Creepers will also feed on a small amount of seeds and vegetable matter. This creeper uses its slender, down curved bill to glean invertebrates—mainly insects, spiders, and pseudoscorpions—from furrows in the bark. Nestlings presumably are only fed insects.

Photo: Melissa Grippin



They forage on tree trunks and branches, typically spiraling upwards from the bottom of a tree trunk, and then flying down to the bottom of another tree. They “creep” slowly with their body flattened against the bark, probing with their beak for insects. Little information is known about the Brown Creepers mating behavior however, because no cases polygamy has been observed, it is inferred that the Brown Creeper in monogamous. The female is responsible for incubating the 5-6 eggs she has laid for 14-17 days. Both sexes tend to the altricial young for 13-17 days after they hatched. The young are immobile, helpless and blind when they are born and need extra care from their parents. The pair bond is maintained at least up to several weeks after the fledging, as both adults have been observed feeding the fledglings.

Photo: Kyle Horton



Brown Creepers are commonly seen hopping head-first up vertical tree trunks while foraging. Although the Brown Creeper is found in a variety of forest habitats, it favors closed-canopy forests with an abundance of large dead or dying trees for nesting. It prefers large live trees for foraging. Some spots that Brown Creepers are normally seen are the Swallow Hollow Loop Trail at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge or the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.