Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 2 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2014, and other data.

The brown creeper, a small brown-and-white bird with distinctive habits, is seldom seen in this area. One was found at the Crowe Bridge conservation area on 06 April 2013. A decade earlier, another was seen at Goodrich-Loomis conservation area on 27 April 2002, a few km south of Trent Hills. One spring a creeper was seen in the upper part of an old sugar maple on our Campbellford property, but the details are lost to posterity... Jan Wybourn saw that one, and another in the same garden on 9 August 2014. Thus just two "official" sightings are reported in our township, almost certainly a considerable case of under-reporting.

We can learn more by looking more widely across the province. In a more regional sense, our sightings in the same reporting years are all in the late March to April spring migration period. Localities include the Niagara Falls area, the west and east shorelines of Toronto, and Presqu'ile park. Three sightings in the Queen and Coxwell / Ashbridge's Bay area of Toronto, whence we moved to Campbellford in 1998, were clustered in a 10-day period, 28 March to 05 April 1998.

The brown creeper is a common migrant at Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south. The creeper is seen on migration in early April to mid-May, and mid-September to late October. Fall migration peaks in mid-October, and the creeper surely flies through Trent Hills at this time. The creeper is also an uncommon summer and winter resident at Presqu'ile, and is known to breed in the park (LaForest, 1993, p.262). Winter sightings continue to be made, e.g., in the Presqu'ile and area Christmas Bird Count on 21 December 2003.

In Peterborough county, to the northwest, this bird is an uncommon summer resident and also over-winters in small numbers. The creeper's song may be heard in early spring, during migration (Sadler, 1983, p.117). Although it is small, generally solitary, and easy to miss against the bark of a tree trunk, the creeper ranges widely across Ontario, and indeed across southern Canada. The preferred nest habitat is under the flakes of bark on a recently dead tree, thus the flooded mature forests at Point Pelee and Rondeau parks are exemplary nesting areas in the Carolinian zone of southernmost Ontario (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.302-303). However, most creeper nests are much further north, including Algonquin park, the Algoma district, and Quetico and Wabakimi parks in northwest Ontario. It is possible that the bird breeds in our township (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.410-411) and certain that it is under-reported here!

View the 15-year-plus (1998-2014) monthly data summary (430-kb pdf file).


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Graham Wilson, 03-04 June, 10 August 2014

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