Friday, June 17, 2011

The Curious Behavior of two Brown Creepers

During one of my walks through the woods I observed two Brown Creepers rapidly flying back and forth between several tree trunks as if playing musical chairs. Most of the time they were on different trees, but occasionally on the same one, but without obvious interaction. They were moving so rapidly up and down, spiraling around, that I may have missed that part I thought maybe it was a parent with a youngster following it, but I never saw any begging behavior.

Is that a tick attached underneath the beak?

When I looked at the photos at home I saw that one of the two was carrying a bug in its beak and it seemed to be holding on to it, not passing it on to the other during the entire time that I was watching. They were totally oblivious to me following them with my camera.

Does it look like a doubled-over ant?

.... or perhaps a beetle?

The behavior seemed very odd. So I checked the article on Brown Creepers on BNA Online and found this as a possible explanation:

High-pitched call given, followed by a silent chase in which pair, about 1–3 m apart, spiraled around tree trunks with white undersides prominent, and landed on a tree trunk, one above the other. Wing-fluttering, rapid beating of wings held above the body, often occurred after a chase. This display often followed by another chase. Courtship feeding often occurred after these displays and continued throughout the nesting cycle until eggs hatched, male usually feeding female. Female wing-flutters and gapes similar to the begging of young birds; male lands above her, turns sideways, and places food item in female’s throat. Copulation not observed during these displays. Authors: Hejl, S. J., K. R. Newlon, M. E. Mcfadzen, J. S. Young, and C. K. Ghalambor

So maybe what I was witnessing was part of their courtship behavior? 


  1. A great read Hilke backed up with you lovely images.
    So similar to our Treecreepers the Brown Creeper is a lovely bird to see.

  2. Fabulous! What a treat to witness, Hilke! I adore these little secretive ones.

  3. Hilke, what a cool experience to watch these Brown Creepers together. Wonderful photos.

  4. That's pretty dang cool!
    That explanation sounds good to me, saw something similar once with Orioles, just without the chase :D

  5. Very interesting. One of the things I like about birds is you can observe them for decades and still see new behavior on a regular basis.

  6. That does look like a tick under the beak. Great photos and questions.
    I'm thinking you were watching their mating ritual. How dog gone cool this must have been!


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