Brown Treecreeper

Brown Treecreeper perched on mossy log with grasshopper or cricket in its beak

Scientific Name: Climacteris picumnus

Size: 16 to 19cm

What does it look like?

The Brown Treecreeper is the largest of Australia’s treecreepers. Mostly pale brown in plumage. The head, throat and upper breast are pale greyish-brown, while the lower breast and belly are strongly streaked with black and buff.

In flight, a buff stripe can be seen in the wing. The Brown Treecreeper has a loud ‘spink’ call, which is given either singly or in a series, and normally betrays its presence before the bird is seen. Both sexes are similar, except females have rufous edges to the feathers of the upper breast.

Young Brown Treecreepers resemble the adults, but are duller, and have less obvious stripes on the underparts. Also, the lower belly has a pale rufous colour.

Other treecreeper species that overlap in range with the Brown Treecreeper include the White-browed Treecreeper, C. affinis, and the White-throated Treecreeper, Cormobates leucophaeus. The White-browed Treecreeper has a more distinct white stripe above the eye (edged with red-brown in the female). The eyebrow of the Brown Treecreeper is less distinct and is more buff. The White-throated Treecreeper has much darker upperparts and has little or no marks above the eye.

Where is it found?

It is endemic to Australia, meaning that it doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world. It is found in the drier open forests and woodlands of eastern Australia, from Cape York Peninsula, Qld., to south-eastern South Australia. It does not occur in Tasmania. The Brown Treecreeper stays in the same area all year round. 

What are its habitats & habits?

The Brown Treecreeper climbs up the trunks and branches of trees in search of food. It probes into cavities and under loose bark with its long downward curving bill. In this way it searches for insects and their larvae. The most favoured insects are ants. Some feeding also takes place on the ground on fallen logs. Sometimes, birds can be seen diving on ground-dwelling prey from a perch in a tree. Feeding normally takes place in pairs or small groups.

Brown Treecreepers breed from June to January each year. During this season, pairs often have 2 broods of 2 to 3 young. The nest is a collection of grasses, feathers and other soft material, placed in a suitable tree hollow or other similar site. Both sexes build the nest, but the female alone incubates the eggs. The eggs hatch after about 17 days, and the young birds leave the nest after a further 25 to 26 days. Occasionally, other birds (‘helpers’) assist the breeding pair with the building of the nest and feeding of the young chicks.

Interesting facts

Of the seven treecreepers found in the world, six are found in Australia (the seventh is found in New Guinea).

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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