Birds – Brown Creeper

(Certhia familiaris americana)

Length—5 to 5.75 inches. A little smaller than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Brown above, varied with ashy-gray stripes and small, lozenge-shaped gray mottles. Color lightest on head, increasing in shade to reddish brown near tail. Tail paler brown and long; wings brown and barred with whitish.

Beneath grayish white. Slender, curving bill. Range—United States and Canada, east of Rocky Mountains.

Migrations—April. September. Winter resident.

This little brown wood sprite, the very embodiment of virtuous diligence, is never found far from the nuthatches, titmice, and kinglets, though not strictly in their company, for he is a rather solitary bird. Possibly he repels them by being too exasperatingly conscientious.

Beginning at the bottom of a rough-barked tree (for a smooth bark conceals no larvae, the creeper silently climbs upward in a sort of spiral, now lost to sight on the opposite side of the tree, then reappearing just where he is expected to, flitting back a foot or two, perhaps, lest he overlooked a single spider egg, but never by any chance leaving a tree until conscience approves of his thoroughness. And yet with all this painstaking workman’s care, it takes him just about fifty seconds to finish a tree. Then off he flits to the base of another, to repeat the spiral process. Only rarely does he adopt the woodpecker process of partly flitting, partly rocking his way with the help of his tail straight up one side of the tree.

Yet this little bird is not altogether the soulless drudge he appears. In the midst of his work, uncheered by summer sun-shine, and clinging with numb toes to the tree-trunk some bitter cold day, he still finds some tender emotion within him to voice in a “wild, sweet song” that is positively enchanting at such a time. But it is not often this song is heard south of his nesting grounds.

The brown creeper’s plumage is one of Nature’s .most successful feats of mimicry—an exact counterfeit in feathers of the brown-gray bark on which the bird lives. And the protective coloring is carried out in the nest carefully tucked under a piece of loosened bark in the very heart of the tree.