BROWN CREEPER

Certhia americana americana; C. a. montana

Status:  Locally rare regular resident east and northwest, rare casual north-central. Uncommon regular spring and fall migrant and winter visitor statewide.

Documentation:  americana: UNSM ZM6569, 25 Mar 1896 Lancaster Co; montanus: UNSM ZM6570, 17 Feb 1896 Sioux Co.

Taxonomy:  There are 12-15 subspecies recognized, all but three occurring north of Mexico (Poulin et al 2013, Pyle 1997, Gill and Donsker 2017). Of the northern subspecies, most have restricted ranges west of the Rocky Mountains, but these three may occur in Nebraska: alascensis, breeding in south-central Alaska and wintering from Arizona to northwest Arkansas, montana, breeding from west-central British Columbia east to Alberta and south to southern Arizona and west Texas and wintering from California to Louisiana, and americana, breeding from northern Saskatchewan east to Newfoundland and south to Minnesota and West Virginia and wintering from California to Florida.

There is no evidence that alascensis has occurred in Nebraska.  Subspecies montana breeds in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and presumably is the subspecies breeding on the Nebraska Pine Ridge. A specimen collected in Sioux County 12 Feb 1896 was assigned to montana (Bruner et al 1904); it was likely resident (see Winter). Creepers breeding elsewhere in Nebraska, notably the eastern Niobrara River Valley and the Missouri River Valley, are probably americana (Bruner et al 1904, AOU 1957).

Spring:  winter <<<>>> Apr 28, 29, May 2

Departure of wintering birds and migrants takes place by the end of Apr; later reports may be of breeding birds.

  • High counts: 10 at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 20 Apr 2018, 9 at Wilderness Park, Lincoln, Lancaster Co 10 Mar 2001, and 6 at Zorinsky Lake, Omaha 13 Apr 2018.

Resident: This species is generally resident wherever it breeds except for birds at the northern edge of the breeding range in Canada, which move south in winter (Poulin et al 2013).

Brown Creeper breeds in disjunct locations in Nebraska; based on the low frequency of sightings, breeding numbers must be minimal. Breeding has been confirmed in only four localities, Dawes Co on the Pine Ridge, Brown Co in the Niobrara River Valley, and Sarpy and Washington Cos near the Missouri River; most records are from Sarpy Co, where there have also been several additional summer reports without evidence of breeding.

Rosche (1982) stated that Brown Creeper probably bred on the Pine Ridge, although breeding has only recently been confirmed there. Mollhoff (2004) found a nest with week-old young in West Ash Canyon, Dawes Co 1 Jun 2002, and believed that “they may breed more frequently than suspected in this area”. Additional records in West Ash Canyon are 21 May 2000 and a pair there 14 Jun 2006. There are reports from Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co 12 Jul 2001 and 29 Jul 2012. There are several reports from Chadron SP and nearby Chadron Creek WMA in Dawes Co; the Chadron SP checklist lists it as “Rare”.  Reports there are: 14 Jun 1998, 18 Jun 2003, 29 Jul 2012, 6 Sep 2009, 8 Sep 2016, and 19 Sep 2011. Reports in late Sep may be of early fall migrants, however (see Fall).

The only other Panhandle report is 9-15 May 1984 Scotts Bluff Co. In Perkins Co there is a 29 May 1972 report, and there are Lincoln Co reports 23 May 1983 and 26 Jun 1976.

In the Niobrara River Valley, the only breeding record was of an adult carrying food to a nest in a rotten ponderosa pine, with a male singing nearby (Brogie and Mossman 1983).  The location was on the Niobrara River floodplain in Brown Co in mixed woodland. The only summer reports further west are in Cherry Co:  16 May 2015 Snake River Valley southwest of Valentine, and Steer Creek Campground 5 Jun 2011 and 19 Jun 2014.

The history of breeding in Sarpy Co is recent, beginning in 1974; the maximum number of nesting pairs reported since then is two.  All Sarpy Co records are from Fontenelle Forest; Cortelyou (1975) stated that a female with a brood patch had been banded 16 Jul 1974, and that birds had been seen carrying food in 1974 and 1975. In 1975 birds were seen carrying sticks to a nest site, and on 26 May two birds were flushed from under loose bark on a dead tree, presumed to be an elm (Cortelyou 1975). The nest was about six feet from the ground and contained two nestlings. The few documented reports of nesting are as follows. A pair was carrying food at Fontenelle Forest 20 May 2010 and one was singing there 23 May. A family group was seen 28 May 2005. Two nests were found on the north floodplain 7 Apr 2016; nest building was under way there 12 Apr and singles were present 3 May, 14 May, and 18 Jun.

In southeast Washington Co, one was singing at the Krimlofski Tract, Neale Woods, 24 May 1998, nest-building was observed there 20 May 2003, adults were carrying food to a nest site there 28-29 May 2006 (Mollhoff 2006), and two sightings there 23 May and early Jun 2004 separated by about a quarter-mile might have indicated the presence of at least two pairs.

There is limited additional evidence for breeding in the Missouri and Platte River Valleys. Ducey (1988) cited breeding prior to 1920 in Dakota Co, and there is a recent report from there for 14 May 1984, a late date for a migrant. There are reports for Cass Co 12 May 1966, 18 May 1995 (at Schramm SP), 6 Jun 1997, and 30 Jun 1967. “Probable” breeding occurred in northern Saunders Co between 2009 and 2014 (Mollhoff 2016).  There are three reports from Lancaster and Gage Cos: 2 May 2011 Lancaster Co, and two “probable” breeding reports from northern Gage Co 1984-89 (Mollhoff 2001).

There are several records mid-May through early Jul away from known breeding locations that are puzzling; although they might suggest local breeding attempts it seems more likely they are dispersing non-breeders (see Fall).

Fall:  Sep 20,21,23 <<<>>> winter

Early dates are away from known breeding areas, although sightings in late Jul and Aug may be of dispersing young birds; family groups disband as early as mid-Jul, before arrival in wintering areas by Oct, when only single or paired birds occur (Poulin et al 2013). One at Smith Lake WMA, Sheridan Co 31 Aug 2004, and another, seen 13 Aug and 26 Aug 2005 at Alma, Harlan Co were almost certainly migrants.  In general, migrants and wintering birds arrive in late Sep, with peak movement probably in Oct and early Nov.

In recent years, this species has been reported more often in fall and winter than formerly.

  • High counts: 12 at Arbor Day Farm, Otoe Co 28 Oct 2003, 10 at Cottonmill Park, Kearney, Buffalo Co 20 Nov 2015, and 8 in Gage Co 1 Nov 2015.

Winter: Brown Creepers generally winter within their breeding range, except for northern or high-altitude breeding birds, although the “center of gravity of the population shifts southward in winter” (Harrap and Quinn 1995). This shift causes an influx into Nebraska, when numbers are much higher than in summer. Winter reports are concentrated in the east, and to a lesser extent westward in the Platte River Valley to Lincoln Co. The high CBC count is 43 at Lincoln, Lancaster Co 18 Dec 2010, but CBC reports are few and scattered elsewhere.

At least one example of social roosting in winter has been observed, that of about a dozen individuals clumped beneath an eave in “mid-winter” during the 1960s near Wisner, Cuming Co (Roger Sharpe, personal communication).

  • High counts:  10 at Towl Park, Omaha 31 Dec 2016, 6 in North Platte, Lincoln Co 10 Jan 2013, 6 at North Platte Cemetery 21 Dec 2014, 6 in Gage Co 14 Mar 2013, 6 in Buffalo Co 16 Jan 2016, and 6 in Omaha, Douglas Co 7 Feb 2016.

Abbreviations

CBC: Christmas Bird Count
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)

Acknowledgement

Photograph (top) of a Brown Creeper at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 10 Apr 2009 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1957. The AOU Check-list of North American birds, 5th ed.  Port City Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Brogie, M.A., and M.J. Mossman. 1983. Spring and summer birds of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska: An annotated checklist. NBR 51: 44-51.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1975. A Brown Creeper’s nest in Nebraska. NBR 43: 80-83.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Harrap, S., and D. Quinn. 1995. Chickadees, tits, nuthatches and treecreepers. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2001. The Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas 1984-1989. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Occasional Papers No. 7. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2004. The 2002 Nebraska Nesting Report. NBR 72: 153-158.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2006. The 2006 Nebraska nest report. NBR 74: 142-147.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2016. The Second Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas. Bull. Univ. Nebraska State Museum Vol 29. University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Poulin, J., É. D’Astous, M. Villard, S.J. Hejl, K.R. Newlon, M.E. McFadzen, J.S. Young, and C.K. Ghalambor. 2013. Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.669

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2018.  Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org


Birds of Nebraska – Online