A little brown bird told me I should write about him today – and wouldn’t you know he thinks it’s all about him!
The brown creeper is one of my favorite little brown birds. When I look out my window into the forest beyond I consider it a really good day when just by happenstance I see one of these little fellows creeping up the side of a tree.
Brown creepers (Certhia americana) only come down from their summer Arctic homes to spend the winters with us in northern Missouri and Kansas. By spring they are returning north. Brown creepers probe their sharp little beaks behind bark jetties, into crevices and anywhere else they can find small spiders, insects and other invertebrates trying to find a place to overwinter. If they happen to find some tiny seeds behind that bark, they won’t pass up those morsels either. Brown creepers start their dinner search at the base of a tree and creep upward, unlike nuthatches, which travel head-first down the tree.
I have wanted to visit our neighbors far north of us for many reasons, and one of these is to someday see a brown creeper’s nest. Picture this: For the base of a small nest, a shelf is made from parts of cocoons and spider egg cases and anchored to the inside of the bark. Then attached to this shelf is the cup of the nest made of fine pieces of bark, fibers, leaves, mosses and feathers. Finally, brown creepers add a roof, as they fashion all of this behind a flap of loose bark on a tree. What ingenious architects.
Inside one of these fine homes can be found one to eight small white eggs that are usually adorned with pink, or darkish brown spots.
Probably one of my most favorite things about brown creepers is their feathered appearance. Sure, they are cute, weighing in at only 0.2 to 0.4 ounce and a little over four and a half inches long,. What I really like is that their back is mottled brown and decorated with white specks, lines and patches of white. They are very well camouflaged little buggers (pun intended).
To me, watching a brown creeper on a cold winter day has always resembled watching a piece of bark with splotches of bird poop erratically climbing up a tree! Now really – what could be better than that!
Brown creepers are just one more reason to take up bird watching as an enjoyable pastime. You can watch through a window and see what comes into your neighborhood. Drive to the nearest nature or visitor center and see what comes to their windows, or, bored with your scenery, invite birds near your window by putting up a few feeders. (Sorry, brown creepers will not visit your feeders.) Maybe some other little birds will have to tell their stories next week ...
Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.