Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bird of the Month: Brown Treecreeper

Posted on 19 September, 2023 by Jess

Welcome to Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus victoriae)

Pizza stealing Brown Treecreeper at Warburton’s Bridge Campground. Damian Kelly took this stunning portrait, despite losing some pizza to this cheeky thief.


Even homemade pizza is not a healthy addition to the Brown Treecreeper’s diet, but Damian Kelly was taken unaware as this little bird crept in and stole a bite with the skill and confidence of a seasoned food thief. Usually more wary, Brown Treecreepers are often seen disappearing around the back of a tree trunk or even hanging upside down on the underside of a branch as they forage for insects and spiders, their usual food source.

In spite of its name, the Brown Treecreeper can also be seen on the ground foraging for insects. Due to its very large tree-climbing feet, when on the ground this bird hops in a distinctive way, rather than walking. The anatomy of their unusual feet mean that when getting a drink from a birdbath, they reverse into the water. These feet are built for roosting on vertical surfaces as they sleep, quite hard to fathom how this is restful, but it works for this incredible bird!

The Brown Treecreeper usually feeds in pairs or small groups of 3-8 birds, foraging equally between the ground and trees. In human frequented places like picnic grounds and camp sites individuals will often come close to people. Like Damian with the pizza, I have had experiences locally with birds that have approached me and pinched bits of my food quite boldly!

The Brown Treecreeper is Australia’s largest treecreeper and its range extends all the way down the east coast from Cape York in Queensland and inland around to South Australia, generally preferring drier open woodlands.

As one of Connecting Country’s “Feathered Five” the Brown Treecreeper is a key indicator of the health of woodland fauna in our area and can often be seen and heard in our local woodland areas. Unfortunately in recent times populations of this species have been declining in various parts of its range due to land clearing, as well as changing fire regimes that reduce ground cover.

Generally this species is quite sedentary and banding studies have shown that almost 100% of re-captures have been less than 10km away from the original banding site. It is quite a long-lived species with some birds known to be at least 11 years old.

Nesting occurs in tree hollows, usually beneath the leaf canopy with a clutch size of 3 eggs. Sometimes a second clutch is raised in a season. Co-operative breeding has been recorded with additional helpers, usually males from the previous clutches, feeding the young.

Brown Treecreeper calling from the side of a tree trunk, Rise and Shine Reserve. Photo by Damian Kelly.

Spring is the perfect time to wander in our local reserves, parks and woodland areas looking for birds. Keep and ear and an eye out for the engaging Brown Treecreeper.

Find more information on Brown Treecreepers, including their calls, here.

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