The Brown Creeper can be difficult to spot for two reasons: its brown streaked plumage camouflages well and it inconspicuously creeps along the trunks of trees. When foraging it characteristically spirals upward picking insects from the bark with its long decurved bill and then flying to the base of the next tree and spiraling upward again. In winter in Tennessee it can be found statewide foraging alone or frequently in mixed species flocks with chickadees and titmice. Only in the high elevations of eastern Tennessee is it a relatively common nester and is a rare breeder elsewhere in the state. The breeding range extends from central Canada and the northeastern United States south along the Appalachian Mountains, and also from southern Alaska to northern Central America. The Brown Creeper occupies much of the breeding range year round but some northern breeders migrate into the lower 48 states during the winter.
Description: This small songbird has a white eyebrow stripe, is streaked brown and white on the back, is whitish below, and has a long, thin down-curved bill. The tail is long and stiff and is used as a prop as it creeps up tree trunks. Males and females look alike but the male is slightly larger and has a slightly longer bill.
Weight: 0.29 oz
Voice: The call is a high-pitched seee. The song is an irregular jumble of very high thin notes ending on a lower pitch.
Habitat: Coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests typically, but also common in bottomland hardwood forests in winter.
Diet: Primarily small insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.
Nesting and reproduction: Nest building in East Tennessee has been observed from late April through mid-June.
Clutch Size: Usually 5 to 6 eggs with a range of 1 to 8.
Incubation: The female incubates the eggs for 14 to 17 days.
Fledging: The male and female tend the young, which leave the nest when 13 to 16 days old.
Nest: Nests are almost always placed behind a flap of loose bark on a tree trunk. The male and female build the nest with fine twigs, strips of bark, and spider webs, and line it with finer materials.
Status in Tennessee: Fairly common (but inconspicuous) winter resident across the state. Breeds at high elevations in the eastern mountains and around Reelfoot Lake, and is a rare breeder elsewhere.
Dynamic map of Brown Creeper eBird observations in Tennessee
- When threatened, Brown Creepers will freeze, often with outspread wings, and remain motionless for several minutes. Their camouflaged plumage makes them nearly invisible.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Brown Creepers breed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Reelfoot Lake. In winter, found statewide, often in mixed species foraging flocks.
Hejl, S. J., K. R. Newlon, M. E. Mcfadzen, J. S. Young and C. K. Ghalambor. 2002. Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.
Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.