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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 5:01 EDT

Short-toed Treecreeper, Certhia brachydactyla

The Short-toed Treecreeper, (Certhia brachydactyla), is a small bird found mainly in warmer regions of North Africa and Europe. This bird belongs to the largest order of perching songbirds, which includes more than half of all bird species. They encompass a massive range with a huge population estimated at approximately between 4-14 million birds. As one of a group of four very similar Treecreepers that are found in the regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, the Short-toed Treecreeper has five subspecies which vary in song and color. These birds seem to have very few differences as they share some of the same territories. There is a gradual variation in the characteristics of Short-toed Treecreepers from one part of Europe to the next.

The markings of the Common Treecreeper and the Short-toed Treecreeper are hard to tell apart, especially since they share many of the same habitats. Another species, the Brown Treecreeper, has never been seen in Europe; however, it would be hard to distinguish from a Short-toed Treecreeper since they too look almost identical.
The features of the both the male and female Short-toed Treecreeper are like that of other Treecreepers. They all have curved bills; however, the Short-toed’s bills are a little long and they appear to have shorter toes. The stiff tail feathers help them balance as they creep up trees looking for food. The Short-toed Treecreeper is 5 inches long and it weighs 0.26″“0.39 ounces and has a curved bill.
You can usually identify vocal birds by their song. The Short-toed Treecreeper repeats a shrill tyt tyt-tyt. This call is similar to that of the Common Treecreeper and the Brown Treecreeper, once again making them difficult to tell apart.

Some geographical variations exist. Although, the Short-toed and Common Treecreeper have been known to sing one another’s songs, some calls are not shared. European birds will not respond to some of the other Treecreeper’s songs. Danish birds have a shorter song. The subspecies from Cyprus sings a short and simple call while the birds from North Africa have a lower pitched version.

The Short-toed Treecreeper mates in mild woodlands in northwest Africa, Greece and crossing Europe from Turkey to Portugal. It is usually found in the lowlands, but breeds higher in other regions like Switzerland, France and Germany. The Short-toed Treecreeper is considered a mountain species in North Africa and Turkey. Well-grown oaks are their favored homes; these birds will not reside in evergreen forests. In contrast, the Common Treecreeper tends to prefer the evergreens and upper altitudes in the commonly shared areas of Europe.

This small woodland bird hops around and then up a tree trunk using a wide stance with its feet along with its stiff tail feathers for support. The flight of this bird is significantly irregular and resembles waves. The Short-toed nests in tree crevices, behind the bark, sometimes in an old woodpecker nest, and in buildings or wall crevices. In winter, approximately twenty birds or so will roost together or assemble in a star formation under eaves of buildings.
Materials such as pine needles, twigs, bark or grass will be used as a base for nesting, while wool, feathers, spider webs, or moss line the nest. Between April and June, typically 5-7 eggs are laid and incubated by only the female. Once hatched, both parents feed the young but only the female will cover them for warmth. A second brood is not uncommon; while the female is still caring for the young, the male will start construction on a new nest. When the first chicks are about two weeks old, the pair switch roles and the female completes the nesting spot as the male feeds the young.
Insects and worms from the tree trunks are the main source of food as the Short-toed Treecreeper hops up a trunk and uses its curved thin bill to remove the spiders, worms and other insects from the bark crevices. Sometimes, these birds will find food between the fallen pine needles and on the ground. In colder months, seeds will be another source of food.

Image Credit: Jimfbleak/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla