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Brown Creeper, Bob Shettler
Photo © Bob Shettler

Photo: Bob Shettler
Breeding evidence - Brown Creeper
Breeding evidence
Relative abundance - Brown Creeper
Relative abundance
Probability of observation - Brown Creeper
Probability of observation

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Brown Creeper
Certhia americana
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Conserv. status:
SRANK: Abundant Breeder (S5B)
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
12 19 405 429
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Manitoba1977 - 2015 1.29 (-1.39 - 3.87)Low
Canada1970 - 2015 0.867 (-0.185 - 1.75)Medium

Mean abundance (number of birds detected per 5 min. point count) and percentage of squares occupied by region

Bird Conservation Regions [abund. plot] [%squares plot]
Arctic Plains and MountainsBoreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Softwood Shield
0.00% 0.0839% 0.0926%
Boreal Taiga PlainsPrairie PotholesTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains
0.117% 0.051% 0.043%

Characteristics and Range Distinguished by cryptically marked upperparts and a slender, decurved bill, the tiny Brown Creeper is usually detected by its spiral foraging movement up a tree trunk, followed by a short flight to the base of another tree. The sweet, warbled song is easily lost in a vigorous dawn chorus, while high-pitched call notes are challenging to distinguish. Brown Creepers breed in forested regions of western North America from Alaska to Nicaragua, and also extensively in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States (southern populations are sometimes considered a separate species, Manthey et al. 2016). Eastern and western populations are linked by a band of boreal forest across the Prairie Provinces. While some published range maps indicate permanent occupancy of the entire breeding range, there is considerable southward withdrawal and the winter range includes almost all of the conterminous U.S.A. (Poulin et al. 2013). Manitoba breeders are almost entirely migratory and overwintering here is rare.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat Atlas records are concentrated primarily in the Boreal Softwood Shield, Boreal Taiga Plains, and Boreal Hardwood Transition, with scattered occurrence farther north. The species was largely absent from the Prairie Potholes, except for evidence of small numbers in the Spruce Woods area. Observed abundance levels are low, rarely exceeding three point-count detections per square even in the core range, but this is partly due to the species' inconspicuous nature. Probability of observation is more strongly weighted than abundance towards central eastern Manitoba, the Duck Mountains, and the Porcupine Hills. High square occupancy in the Boreal Hardwood Transition seems to be tied to greater observer effort rather than abundance. Preferred breeding habitat in Manitoba is mature mixed woods and jack pine stands. Wintering birds are most often found in dense black spruce or occasionally at feeders in wooded settings. The key breeding habitat components are nesting crevices, especially under loose bark, in decaying trees and foraging surfaces on tall, live trees (Poulin et al. 2013).

Trends, Conservation, and Recommendations BBS analysis for the Brown Creeper has generally low reliability because of the small numbers detected, but overall trends are increasing in eastern North America and decreasing in the west (stable in Manitoba). While conservation concern is relatively low, the Brown Creeper has been recognized as an important indicator species for forest habitat quality (Poulin et al. 2013). As well as clear cutting, the species is sensitive to selective logging of mature, large-diameter trees (Poulin et al. 2013, Geleynse et al. 2016). Other practices with negative impacts include the harvesting of older forest stands, fire suppression, and intensive salvage logging (Hannah 2003). Unfortunately, minimal nest-site data are available for Manitoba, but retention of large, old trees is evidently a key conservation measure.

Peter Taylor

Recommended citation: Taylor, P. 2018. Brown Creeper in Artuso, C., A. R. Couturier, K. D. De Smet, R. F. Koes, D. Lepage, J. McCracken, R. D. Mooi, and P. Taylor (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Manitoba, 2010-2014. Bird Studies Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba [15 Dec 2018]

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