The treecreepers are a family, Certhiidae, of small passerine birds, widespread in wooded regions of the Northern Hemisphere and sub-Saharan Africa. The family contains ten species in two genera, Certhia and Salpornis. Their plumage is dull-coloured, and as their name implies, they climb over the surface of trees in search of food.

Brown creeper (Certhia americana)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Certhioidea
Family: Certhiidae
Leach, 1820


Taxonomy and systematics

The family consists of two subfamilies, each with one genus. Their distinctive anatomical and behavioural characteristics are discussed in their respective articles.

Some taxonomists place the nuthatches and treecreepers in a larger grouping with the wrens and gnatcatchers. This superfamily, the Certhioidea, was based on phylogenetic studies using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, and was created to cover a clade of four families removed from a larger grouping of passerine birds, the Sylvioidea.[1] The fossil record for this group appears to be restricted to a foot bone of an early Miocene bird from Bavaria which has been identified as an extinct representative of the climbing Certhioidea, a clade comprising the treecreepers, wallcreeper and nuthatches. It has been described as Certhiops rummeli.[2]





Typical treecreepers

Spotted creepers

The nearest relatives of the treecreepers

The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek kerthios, a small tree-dwelling bird described by Aristotle and others, and Latin familiaris, familiar or common.[3]

There are two other small bird families with treecreeper or creeper in their name, which are not closely related:

The wallcreeper was originally described in the family Certhiidae but is now considered as more closely related to the nuthatches. The woodcreepers (subfamily Dendrocolaptinae) also have a similar name.

Species in taxonomic order


Treecreepers measure from 12 to 18 centimetres in length. Their bills are gently down-curved and rather long, used for probing bark for insects and spiders. They often climb up tree trunks in a helical path, hopping with their feet together; their toes are long and tipped with strongly curved claws for gripping. The longer tails of the Certhia treecreepers are stiffened to use as a prop while climbing, but those of the spotted creeper are shorter and not stiffened. Their songs and calls are thin and high-pitched.[4]

Distribution and habitat

Most species of treecreeper occur in the Palearctic and Indomalaya ecozones, from Western Europe to Japan and India. One species occurs in North America from Alaska to Nicaragua and another has a discontinuous distribution in sub-Saharan Africa and India. All species of treecreeper are found in forest and woodland habitats. The more northerly species are partly migratory, and those found in warmer climates are thought to be resident, although information is lacking for many species.[5]

Behaviour and ecology

Treecreepers are generally unobtrusive and are often indifferent to humans. They occur as singles or in pairs, sometimes in small family groups after fledging. Communal roosting has been observed in three species (and may occur in more), with as many as 20 birds sharing a roosting hole in order to conserve warmth.[5]

Treecreepers forage on the trunks of large trees. They move up the trunk in a progression of small hops. They fly to the bottom of a tree, then climb in a spiral fashion searching for prey. The majority of their diet is composed of small invertebrates, including insects and their larvae, spiders, and pseudoscorpions. In hard times seeds and fruits may be taken, and a few species will also visit birdfeeders. Species in both genera have been recorded joining mixed-species feeding flocks.[5]

The treecreepers are monogamous and territorial. Nests and eggs vary between the genera: the Certhia treecreepers usually nest in a gap between the tree bark and the tree, whereas the nest of the spotted creeper is placed in the fork of a branch.[5] Incubation lasts 14 to 15 days, and young fledge after 15 to 16 days.[4]


  1. ^ Cracraft, J.; Barker, F. Keith; Braun, M. J.; Harshman, J.; Dyke, G.; Feinstein, J.; Stanley, S.; Cibois, A.; Schikler, P.; Beresford, P.; García-Moreno, J.; Sorenson, M. D.; Yuri, T.; Mindell. D. P. (2004) "Phylogenetic relationships among modern birds (Neornithes): Toward an avian tree of life." p468–489 in Assembling the tree of life (J. Cracraft and M. J. Donoghue, eds.). Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-19-517234-5
  2. ^ Manegold, Albrecht (April 2008). "Earliest fossil record of the Certhioidea (treecreepers and allies) from the early Miocene of Germany". Journal of Ornithology. 149 (2): 223–228. doi:10.1007/s10336-007-0263-9.
  3. ^ "Treecreeper Certhia familiaris [Linnaeus, 1758]". BirdFacts. British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Retrieved 2008-05-20.
  4. ^ a b Mead, Christopher J. (2003). "Holarctic Treecreepers". In Perrins, Christopher (ed.). The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 538–540. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.
  5. ^ a b c d Harrap, Simon (2008). "Family Certhiidae (Treecreepers)". In Josep, del Hoyo; Andrew, Elliott; David, Christie (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13, Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 166–179. ISBN 978-84-96553-45-3.

External links

African spotted creeper

The African spotted creeper (Salpornis salvadori) is a small passerine bird, which is a member of the subfamily Salpornithinae of the treecreeper family Certhiidae. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa in open deciduous forest and mango groves. It does not migrate other than local movements.

The African spotted creeper has strongly spotted and barred plumage, clearly different from the treecreepers of the subfamily Certhiinae. It weighs up to 16 grams, twice as much as treecreepers of similar length (up to 15 cm).

The African spotted creeper has a thin pointed down-curved bill, which it uses to extricate insects from bark, but it lacks the stiff tail feathers which the true treecreepers use to support themselves on vertical trees.

Its nests and eggs are quite different from those of the Certhiinae. The nest is a cup placed on a horizontal branch, usually in a crotch, and camouflaged with spiders' egg sacs, caterpillar frass, and lichen. The clutch is usually of three eggs, which are blue or greenish, marked with grey, lavender, and brown.

This species and the Indian spotted creeper were formerly considered conspecific and called the spotted creeper. Four distinct populations or subspecies are recognized within the distribution of the African species. The nominate salvadori described by Bocage in 1878 is found in eastern Uganda, western Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. Subspecies emini described by Hartlaub in 1884 is found northwards from west Africa including Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, to Cameroon and Chad in the east. Subspecies erlangeri described by Neumann in 1907 is restricted to the Ethiopian highlands. Subspecies xylodromus described by Clancey in 1975 is found in the Zambezi Escarpment, Mashonaland Plateau and adjoining Mozambique.

In addition to the treecreeper family, there are two other small bird families with 'treecreeper' or 'creeper' in their name – the Australian treecreepers and the Philippine creepers.

Australasian treecreeper

There are 7 species of Australasian treecreeper in the passerine bird family Climacteridae. They are medium-small, mostly brown birds with patterning on their underparts, and all are endemic to Australia-New Guinea. They resemble, but are not closely related to, the Holarctic treecreepers. The family is one of several families identified by DNA–DNA hybridisation studies to be part of the Australo-Papuan songbird radiation. There is some molecular support for suggesting that their closest relatives are the large lyrebirds.

As their name implies, treecreepers forage for insects and other small creatures living on and under the bark of trees, mostly eucalypts, though several species also hunt on the ground, through leaf-litter, and on fallen timber. Unlike the Holarctic treecreepers they do not use their tail for support when climbing tree trunks, only their feet.

Australasian treecreepers nest in holes in trees. The species in the family hold breeding territories, although the extent to which they are defended and last varies. Some species, such as the red-browed treecreeper and the brown treecreeper are cooperative breeders, others, like the white-throated treecreeper are not. The cooperative breeders form groups or a single breeding pair as well as up to three helpers, which are usually the young males of previous pairings. Helpers assist with the construction of the nest, feeding of the incubating female and feeding and defending the young.

Bar-tailed treecreeper

The bar-tailed treecreeper (Certhia himalayana), or the Himalayan treecreeper is a species of bird in the family Certhiidae. It is found primarily in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the Himalayas, as well as in adjoining regions. It is found in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Burma, Nepal, Tibet, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Its natural habitats are boreal forests and temperate forests.

Black-tailed treecreeper

The black-tailed treecreeper (Climacteris melanurus) is a species of bird in the family Climacteridae.

It is endemic to north and northwestern Australia.

Its natural habitats are temperate forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

Brown-throated treecreeper

Brown-throated treecreeper can refer to two species of Certhia:

Sikkim treecreeper, Certhia discolor

Hume's treecreeper, Certhia manipurensis

Brown creeper

For the similarly named Australian bird see Brown treecreeper.

For the similarly named New Zealand bird see Brown creeper (New Zealand).

The brown creeper (Certhia americana), also known as the American treecreeper, is a small songbird, the only North American member of the treecreeper family Certhiidae.

Brown treecreeper

The brown treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus) is the largest Australasian treecreeper. The bird, endemic to eastern Australia, has a broad distribution, occupying areas from Cape York, Queensland, throughout New South Wales and Victoria to Port Augusta and the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Prevalent nowadays between 16˚S and 38˚S, the population has contracted from the edges of its pre-European range, declining in Adelaide and Cape York. Found in a diverse range of habitats varying from coastal forests to mallee shrub-lands, the brown treecreeper often occupies eucalypt-dominated woodland habitats up to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), avoiding areas with a dense shrubby understorey.

Cavendish Woods

Cavendish Woods is a 53.5 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest north-west of Glemsford in Suffolk.These ancient woods are managed as coppice with standards. The main standard tree is oak, and the flora is diverse, including the uncommon oxlip. There are many fallow deer, and breeding birds include woodcock, snipe and treecreeper.The woods are in four blocks, Shadowbush Wood adjacent to Long Wood, King's Wood, Northay Wood and Easty Wood. A public footpath goes through Easty Wood.

Eurasian treecreeper

The Eurasian treecreeper or common treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) is a small passerine bird also known in the British Isles, where it is the only living member of its genus, simply as treecreeper. It is similar to other treecreepers, and has a curved bill, patterned brown upperparts, whitish underparts, and long stiff tail feathers which help it creep up tree trunks. It can be most easily distinguished from the similar short-toed treecreeper, which shares much of its European range, by its different song.

The Eurasian treecreeper has nine or more subspecies which breed in different parts of its range in temperate Eurasia. This species is found in woodlands of all kinds, but where it overlaps with the short-toed treecreeper in western Europe it is more likely to be found in coniferous forests or at higher altitudes. It nests in tree crevices or behind bark flakes, and favours introduced giant sequoia as nest sites where they are available. The female typically lays five or six pink-speckled white eggs in the lined nest, but eggs and chicks are vulnerable to attack by woodpeckers and mammals, including squirrels.

The Eurasian treecreeper is insectivorous and climbs up tree trunks like a mouse, to search for insects which it picks from crevices in the bark with its fine curved bill. It then flies to the base of another tree with a distinctive erratic flight. This bird is solitary in winter, but may form communal roosts in cold weather.

Hodgson's treecreeper

Hodgson's treecreeper (Certhia hodgsoni), is a small passerine bird from the southern rim of the Himalayas. Its specific distinctness from the common treecreeper (C. familiaris) was recently validated.

Hume's treecreeper

The Hume's treecreeper, (Certhia manipurensis) was earlier included within the brown-throated treecreeper complex and identified as a separate species on the basis of their distinctive calls. This species in the treecreeper family is found in Assam, Myanmar, Shan Mountains, Laos and the Dalat Plateau.

This form has a rich cinnamon throat and breast with support for their status coming from nd molecular evidence and calls.The name commemorates the British naturalist Allan Octavian Hume who worked in India.

Papuan treecreeper

The Papuan treecreeper (Cormobates placens) is a species of bird in the family Climacteridae. It was previously considered a subspecies of the white-throated treecreeper (C. leucophaea).It is found in the highlands of New Guinea.

Red-browed treecreeper

The red-browed treecreeper (Climacteris erythrops) is a species of bird in the family Climacteridae.

It is endemic to temperate and subtropical eastern Australia.

It is found in mature eucalypt forests and woodlands in both coastal and mountainous regions, from central Victoria to south-eastern Queensland.

Rufous treecreeper

The rufous treecreeper (Climacteris rufus) is a species of bird in the family Climacteridae.

It is endemic to Australia.

Its natural habitats are temperate forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

Rusty-flanked treecreeper

The rusty-flanked treecreeper (Certhia nipalensis) or the Nepal treecreeper is a species of bird in the family Certhiidae.

It is found in northern India, Nepal, Bhutan and western Yunnan.

Its natural habitats are boreal forests and temperate forests.

Short-toed treecreeper

The short-toed treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla) is a small passerine bird found in woodlands through much of the warmer regions of Europe and into north Africa. It has a generally more southerly distribution than the other European treecreeper species, the common treecreeper, with which it is easily confused where they both occur. The short-toed treecreeper tends to prefer deciduous trees and lower altitudes than its relative in these overlap areas. Although mainly sedentary, vagrants have occurred outside the breeding range.

The short-toed treecreeper is one of a group of four very similar Holarctic treecreepers, including the closely related North American brown creepers, and has five subspecies differing in appearance and song. Like other treecreepers, the short-toed is inconspicuously plumaged brown above and whitish below, and has a curved bill and stiff tail feathers. It is a resident in woodlands throughout its range, and nests in tree crevices or behind bark flakes, laying about six eggs. This common, unwary, but inconspicuous species feeds mainly on insects which are picked from the tree trunk as the treecreeper ascends with short hops.

Sikkim treecreeper

The Sikkim treecreeper (Certhia discolor) is a species of bird in the treecreeper family.

It is found in Bhutan, Nepal and Northeast India.

Its natural habitats are temperate forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

The form C. d. manipurensis of southern Manipur and southwestern Burma has a rich cinnamon throat and breast, and molecular evidence and is usually now treated as a separate species, the Hume's treecreeper, C. manipurensis Hume, 1850.

White-browed treecreeper

The White-browed Treecreeper (Climacteris affinis) is the smallest of the Australo-papuan Treecreepers and sole family member adapted to arid environments. The species foraging strategy involves climbing the trunks of trees in search of invertebrate prey on and under bark. Although some populations within the species range have declined, the species IUCN conservation status is of Least Concern.

White-throated treecreeper

The white-throated treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaea) is an Australian treecreeper found in the forests of eastern Australia. It is unrelated to the northern hemisphere treecreepers. It is a small passerine bird with predominantly brown and white plumage and measuring some 15 cm (6 in) long on average. It is insectivorous, eating mainly ants. Unlike treecreepers of the genus Climacteris, the white-throated treecreeper does not engage in cooperative breeding, and wherever it overlaps with species of that genus, it feeds upon much looser bark besides typically using different trees.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.