Pete’s Tweet – Brown creeper—a forgotten bird

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This is a somewhat nondescript ‘little brown job’ found only in the forests of the South Island. Nondescript that is until you get your ear in, for the brown creeper is nearly always first detected by its song. Outside of the breeding season creeper forage through the canopy in small flocks and it is then that their song or even the chattering contact calls between males gives your first clue to their presence.

Hearing that song allows you to do a little ‘pishing’ to confirm their presence. Pishing is just a fancy birding term for sucking noisily on the back of your hand, trying to sound like an excited little bird. Creeper usually fall for this and will inevitably come right down to investigate. If you want to listen to this song or see more images of this charming little bird then this website has it all: New Zealand Birds Online.

Brown creeper. Photo: Craig McKenzie, New Zealand Birds Online

Creeper are in the same family of birds as mohua or yellowhead, yet have not gone through the same disastrous decline. They are far more of a generalist in their habitat use, being found in a range of forests but particularly at higher altitudes and, on occasions, in mature pine forests and scrublands. However, it is their habit of nesting in a small open cup-like structure that has saved them from the fate of our hole-nesters. In New Zealand our hole-nesters (kākā, kākāriki, tīeke and rifleman) have suffered more than others from predation.
The status of creeper in Abel Tasman National Park is a bit of a mystery. The Atlas of Bird Distribution records them as present in several of the 10 km grid squares, yet the more recent electronic recording system of eBird has them present in only three locations.

I know that they were seen near the Awaroa Estuary a few years ago. Brown creeper provide a good example of how important it is to understand the status of birdlife in the park so that the expected benefits of pest control can be more accurately assessed. Project Janszoon is planning for a team of ornithologists to spend a week recording the birdlife of inland parts of the park during this summer. Hopefully their efforts, and yours, will see a flurry of creeper flags emerging on eBird.

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