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Eastern Kingbird by Mike Benkis


Brown Creepers Aren't Creepy

Is it a wren? Is it a woodpecker? What is that long-beaked bird pecking under the bark? Though the Brown Creeper’s conservation status is considered “low concern,” ASO members should consider themselves lucky to spot one. The Brown Creeper can be found in wooded areas, foraging for insects on large trees with ridged and furrowed bark. Most Nebraskans do not have this habitat in their backyard, but ASO member Tom Neneman is not most Nebraskans. Tom’s property west of Immanuel Hospital, which includes a stream that originates about a mile north, has been largely untouched for 60 years. Tom says, “It is never too late to become an ASO member and to start adding a little something to your yard for birds and wildlife.” Tom’s reintroduction of native prairie grasses, bushes, and trees has no doubt contributed to the wide variety of birds and wildlife that he now appreciates seeing in his own backyard. 

Of the Brown Creepers, Tom says, “They seem to hunt for food at dusk and dawn, and dislike sunny days. The little Creepers must have learned that the bright light makes it easier for predators to spot them.” Tom also observes that relatively larger birds, such as Downy Woodpeckers, White Breasted Nuthatches, and Juncos, chase them away from trying to feed on pieces of suet that have fallen into the cracks between the bark. Taking pity on the tiny birds, Tom ensured that his local Brown Creepers were able to enjoy some treats away from the bullies during the long winter months.

The naturalist W.M. Tyler, writing in 1948, captured this species’ energy and fragility in a memorable description, 

“The Brown Creeper, as he hitches along the bole of a tree, looks like a fragment of detached bark that is defying the law of gravitation by moving upward over the trunk, and as he flies off to another tree he resembles a little dry leaf blown about by the wind.”

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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