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Friday, October 5, 2012

Foraging in furrows

Last weekend we were treated to close views of a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) foraging on cypress trees near the entrance to the Bodega Marine Laboratory housing area.  Although it may be hard to tell from the pictures, creepers are very small, ~12 cm (4.5-5 inches) long.

Creepers prefer deeply furrowed bark.  The furrows provide shelter for their prey (e.g., insects and spiders).  Some of the trees at this site are more than 50 years old.  [Interestingly, several trees are visible and identifiable in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, The Birds, filmed in the early 1960s.]

Note the long curved bill for reaching into bark crevices.  (Creepers on the West Coast have longer bills than creepers on the East Coast.)  And look for the tail being used as a prop against the trunk.

When viewed up close, the back feathers are quite delicate and beautiful.  In the image below you can also see the cinnamon coloration at the base of the tail.

The hindclaw is extremely long for grasping bark.

Brown Creepers are uncommon migrants and winter residents on Bodega Head, but keep your eyes open for these delightful songbirds.

(For a couple of photos from Sebastopol and more information about Brown Creepers, see the post from 24 March 2012.)

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