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Brown Creeper
Brown Creeper
Photos © Tony Coomer, Memorial Lake State Park Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

Brown Creeper
Certhia americana
Order - Passeriformes; Family - Certhiidae

The Brown Creeper, a winter resident in Northern Virginia, is a small dull-colored bird that moves slowly up and around tree trunks, probing for insects with its down-curved beak. Its back is brownish and streaked with gray or white, the undersides are pale and the tail is dark and relatively long.

It breeds in the woodlands of the northern and western USA and southern Canada, spreading to more southern and central areas of the continent in winter.

This small bird generally feeds on insects on and in tree bark, walking and hopping up and around the tree in a spiral path, using its stiff tail for support.

It will appear first on one side of the tree, then another, but may be most easily noticed when it flies down to the base of another tree to start the next trip up. Other small birds that search tree bark - the nuthatches - differ in that they often hunt down the tree, going head first.

In winter, when insects are scarce, it may also eat seeds. If surprised or threatened, it can stop and flatten in place on the bark, where its camouflaging coloration will help to hide it.

The female makes a small nest under loose, hanging bark or in a tree cavity and lays 3-7 eggs. Both parents feed and guard the chicks.