The Brown Creeper is by far our best camouflaged backyard bird in Nova Scotia. The Creeper employs a special type of camouflage called cryptic colouration. This means that both the colour and pattern of the bird's plumage is designed so it resembles something else. The Brown Creeper is brown above, white below and has a back that is patterned like the trunk of a tree. Its colouration is so effective that it actually looks like a piece of bark until it moves. When the Brown Creeper is in danger, instead of flying away like many species, it simply presses its body tight against the trunk of a tree and waits for the danger to pass.
Like our woodpeckers and nuthatches, the Brown Creeper collects its food from searching the trunks of trees. Like woodpeckers, creepers have very stiff tail feathers which help them prop up against the tree for feeding. You can easily recognize a Brown Creeper as it is our only small brown bird that literally creeps along the trunks of trees. Some people have found that the Brown Creeper reminds them of a mouse scurrying up the tree. The Brown Creeper climbs a tree by starting at or near the base of the trunk. As it searches for food, it spirals around the tree as if ascending an imaginary staircase. This unique feeding pattern along with its curved bill (nuthatches and woodpeckers have straight bills) allows it to find food even on tree trunks that have been recently checked by other trunk feeding birds.
Brown Creepers are generally solitary birds but through the winter months, they often accompany Black-capped Chickadees. Some do migrate out of the province, often in flocks of several dozen birds. Watch for the resident creepers on the trunks of rough barked trees, especially coniferous trees as these are their favourites. Brown Creepers have such sharp claws that as evening approaches they simply go asleep clinging onto the side of a tree. During the winter months, they sometimes choose the sides of houses to sleep on for extra warmth.