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The treecreeper

David Chapman / 01 May 2013

Up until about a month ago I would have felt a bit of a fraud writing about the treecreeper in an article about 'wildlife in the garden'.

Treecreeper bird
Treecreeper © David Chapman

Living down in the far west of Cornwall I haven't ever seen a treecreeper in my garden and have rarely seen one in my area. 

But over the last few weeks I have had two trips away, one to Scotland and one to Exmoor, and I have been reminded that in the right habitat treecreepers are actually very common and can be remarkably confiding. I didn't need to be reminded of just how fascinating these delightful birds are.

The treecreeper is a proper arboreal bird, it depends on trees for every part of its life, it likes mature trees and tends to prefer woodland with some evergreens.  The reason for this preference is due to how it feeds and where it nests. 

The treecreeper is aptly named as it creeps up trees looking for insects hiding in the crevices on the bark. Its movement is remarkably mouse-like, it hugs very close to the tree and often spirals upwards but frustratingly tries to avoid detection by climbing up the 'wrong' side to be seen.

This is a bird with excellent camouflage. Underneath it is white but since its belly is pressed tightly against the tree this doesn't really matter. On its back, the treecreeper has a cryptic pattern of various shades of brown with a few white spots. Notice its fine, slightly down-curved bill which is ideally adapted for probing into small crevices to find insects. At the other end, treecreepers have a stiff tail which helps to support their weight when creeping up the tree, for this reason they don't like creeping down trees and usually fly downward to the base of the next tree once they reach the top of the last one.

In May treecreepers will be feeding their young, which are safely tucked up in a slightly messy arrangement of nesting material in the gap behind a piece of bark.  Well, this is classically where they like to nest but they are adaptable, I once found a nest behind one of the wooden slats on a slightly collapsed fence panel in a garden centre.

I must be honest and say that treecreepers are very difficult birds to spot partly because they are so very small. Probably the easiest way to locate them is by their call but unfortunately they have quite a high-pitched voice that becomes harder to detect as we all get older. 

Click on this link to hear a treecreeper:


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.