Like others in its family, the Brown Treecreeper spends a lot of time climbing the trunks and limbs of trees probing the bark for food. However, it also spends almost as much time searching for food on the ground. While the whole population is listed as ‘least concern’, the South-eastern Brown Treecreeper was uplisted to Vulnerable as of March 2023.
The Brown Treecreeper is the largest of Australia’s treecreepers. It is mostly pale brown in plumage, with birds of northern Queensland a darker brown. The head, throat, and upper breast are pale greyish-brown, while the lower breast and belly are strongly streaked with black and buff. In flight, a buff stripe can be seen in the wing. The sexes are similar, except females have rufous edges to the feathers of the upper breast, while in the male these edges are black. Young Brown Treecreepers resemble the adults but are duller, have less obvious stripes on the underparts and the lower belly is a pale rufous colour. Their average size is 17cm and their average weight is 33 grams.
The Brown Treecreeper has a loud ‘spink’ call, which is given either singly or in a series, and normally betrays its presence before the bird is seen. Bird call recorded by: Marc Anderson
The Brown Treecreeper is found along the east coast of Australia. Specifically from South Australia, Victoria through NSW to Queensland.
Found in the drier open forests and woodlands, the Brown Treecreeper stays in the same area all year round.
Despite its name, the Brown Treecreeper does not always forage in trees. Unlike most other treecreepers, it often spends just as much time foraging on the ground in eucalypt forests and woodlands. It hops over fallen branches and other debris where it gleans insects and other invertebrates from among the deep layers of leaf litter. However, when foraging in trees, the Brown Treecreeper spirals up the trunk in the characteristic manner of other treecreepers, gleaning insects from the surface or probing cracks and crevices in the bark. Brown Treecreepers are highly sociable birds, living and breeding communally. Each year, the previous year’s offspring will remain to help the breeding male feed the female and rear new chicks. Interestingly, it is usually only males who remain to perform this duty.
The Brown Treecreeper climbs up the trunks and branches of trees in search of food. It probes into cavities and under loose bark with its long downward curving bill. In this way, it searches for insects and their larvae. The most favoured insects are ants. Some feeding also takes place on the ground on fallen logs. Sometimes, birds can be seen diving on ground-dwelling prey from a perch in a tree. Feeding normally takes place in pairs or small groups.
The nest is a collection of grasses, feathers and other soft materials, placed in a suitable tree hollow or similar site. Both sexes build the nest. Their clutch size is 2 to 3 eggs, and only the female incubates the eggs (17 days). The nestling period is 26 days. Pairs often have two broods during each breeding season. Occasionally, other birds (“helpers”) assist the breeding pair with the building of the nest and feeding the young chicks. Breeding season is from June to January.