Certhia familiarisEurasian tree-creeper(Also: Eurasian treecreeper)

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Geographic Range

Eurasian treecreepers (Certhia familiaris) reside within the Palearctic region. They are found throughout most of Europe as well as select regions of Asia. Their range stretches from Germany and Norway westward to the Pacific coast of Russia and Korea. These birds also reside in the United Kingdom and Japan. Eurasian treecreepers are found as far south as Turkey and Iran and as far north as Norway, Sweden and Russia. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2009)

Habitat

Eurasian treecreepers inhabit deciduous and coniferous woodlands but primarily breed in pine or spruce forests. These birds have three times higher breeding densities in old-growth forests than in managed forests. In general, treecreepers are poor fliers and are better suited for climbing vertically up tree trunks. Therefore they are abundant in mature forests or parks with high densities of large, mature trees. These birds inhabit higher elevations of 400 to 2135 m above sea level. ("BirdFacts", 2011; Dittmann, et al., 2009; Jäntti, et al., 2007a)

  • Range elevation
    400 to 2135 m
    1312.34 to 7004.59 ft

Physical Description

Eurasian treecreepers are 12 to 15 cm in length and weigh an average of 10 g. Male and female treecreepers are similar in appearance. The head and upper body are mottled with black, dark brown, tan, and white. Their brown upper bodies contrast sharply with their unmarked, white throats, bellies and under tail coverts. They also feature broad, white supercilia and thin, decurved bills. Treecreepers have long, stiff tail feathers that support them while climbing and foraging on trees. ("BirdFacts", 2011; Beletsky, 2006; Dittmann, et al., 2009; Dunning, 2009; Norberg, 1986)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    7.6 to 12.9 g
    0.27 to 0.45 oz
  • Average mass
    10 g
    0.35 oz
  • Range length
    12 to 15 cm
    4.72 to 5.91 in
  • Average length
    12 cm
    4.72 in
  • Average wingspan
    19 cm
    7.48 in
  • Range basal metabolic rate
    .19 (low) cm3.O2/g/hr
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    .29 cm3.O2/g/hr

Reproduction

Eurasian treecreepers are monogamous. Male treecreepers sing to attract female partners. These calls are a sequence of shrill and high-pitched sounds. It is unknown if pair-bonds last longer than one season. (Jantti, 2005; Jäntti, et al., 2007b)

For Eurasian treecreepers, the breeding season occurs between March and late June. Eurasian treecreepers are known to make cryptic nests in tree crevices and behind pieces of loose bark. Their nests are typically made using twigs, vegetation, cocoon parts, spider egg cases, bark, fibers, leaves, mosses, and feathers. They produce two broods per breeding season, with each clutch consisting of 1 to 6 eggs that weigh approximately 1.2 g and measure 16 by 12 mm. Eggs are white with pink or reddish brown spots. Female treecreepers incubate the eggs until they hatch after 13 to 17 days. After hatching, the chicks develop in the nest for 13 to 18 days before they fledge. Time to independence is currently unknown. Juvenile Eurasian treecreepers are able to reproduce at 1 year old. ("BirdFacts", 2011; Burton, 2003; Jäntti, et al., 2007b)

  • Breeding interval
    Eurasian treecreepers breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season for Eurasian treecreepers occurs between March and late June.
  • Range eggs per season
    5 to 6
  • Average eggs per season
    5
  • Range time to hatching
    13 to 17 days
  • Range fledging age
    13 to 18 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Eurasian treecreepers are monogamous. Both parents care for the offspring and defend the nest during the first brood, but in most cases only the female defends the second brood. The females incubate the eggs. Once hatched, the altricial young are helpless on their own and have only a little bit of down on their heads. Only female treecreepers brood the hatchlings. Male and female treecreepers take turns feeding their young, but the female parents feed the nestlings more than the males. Males invest most of their time in defending the nest and surrounding territory from rival males and predators. Male and female parents take care of the chicks for 13 to 18 more days until fledging. (Beletsky, 2006; Jantti, 2005; Jäntti, et al., 2007b)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest known wild Eurasian treecreeper lived 8 years and 2 months, but the average life expectancy is 2 years. (Fransson, et al., 2010)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8.1 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2 years

Behavior

Eurasian treecreepers are non-migratory birds that reside in the same general region throughout the year. They are diurnal birds that are active during the day and often form communal roosts at night. Communal roosts may consist of up to 15 treecreepers and most often occur on nights with low temperatures.

Like all treecreepers, these birds have a specialized foraging behavior of "creeping" vertically up tree trunks. Their stiff tail feathers are adapted to support their body weight as they climb vertically, and their decurved bills serve to reach invertebrates under tree bark. Once an individual has reached the top of a tree, it will swoop downward to begin foraging at the base of a new tree. Eurasian treecreepers compete with red wood ants for food. As a result, treecreepers spend less time foraging on tree trunks with ants present because the amount of ants has a negative effect on the number of invertebrates the birds can feed on. (Aho, et al., 1997; Beletsky, 2006; Jantti, 2005; Norberg, 1986)

Home Range

Currently there are no estimates of Eurasian treecreeper home range.

Communication and Perception

Male Eurasian treecreepers are known to sing complete and incomplete songs. These incomplete songs, also known as mixed songs, contain a mix of both Eurasian treecreeper and short-toed treecreeper songs and occur where the two species overlap. This occurs when the song is being transmitted from parent to offspring. If the offspring hears another species’ song during song transmission, it will learn a mixed song due to error in copying. The purpose of singing among male treecreepers is primarily to deter rival males from entering the territory during breeding season.

Eurasian treecreepers exhibit low song variation and complexity. Some male individuals sing shortened and mixed variants of the same song type. There is no specific song repertoire among treecreepers.

Like most birds, Eurasian treecreepers use sight, sound, touch, smell and taste to perceive their environment. (Osiejuk and Kuczynski, 2003; Thielcke, 1986)

Food Habits

Eurasian treecreepers forage on insects, spiders, and other arthropods. Eurasian treecreepers' slim curved bills allow them to reach insects hidden behind the crevices in tree trunks.

In the winter when food is scarce, Eurasian treecreepers search for food on the ground and incorporate seeds into their diets. (Aho, et al., 1997; Beletsky, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

Eurasian treecreepers have cryptic coloration that help them blend in with tree trunks to avoid being spotted by predators. Treecreepers' nests also camouflage with the habitat. Potential nest predators include great spotted woodpeckers, least weasels, and stoats. Breeding treecreepers will use a "tjii"-alarm call, a high-pitched, narrow frequency call to silence their nestlings first before actively defending the nest. The call is difficult for predators to detect and serves to avoid alerting the predators of the nest’s location. ("creeper", 2011; Jäntti, et al., 2007b)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Eurasian treecreepers feed on insect and arthropod populations, thereby reducing the population of arboreal pests. When these birds incorporate seeds into their diets during winter, they may also serve as seed dispersers. (Aho, et al., 1997; Aho, et al., 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eurasian treecreepers likely help humans, specifically the timber industry, by controlling populations of wood-boring insects. (Jäntti, et al., 2007a)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Eurasian treecreepers on humans.

Conservation Status

Currently Eurasian treecreepers are abundant and not considered a vulnerable species. However, they are extremely sensitive to forest fragmentation because they rely on mature forests for foraging and breeding. Deforestation also alters the birds' vegetation and climate conditions. ("IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2009; Jäntti, et al., 2007a)

Contributors

Mary Wu (author), The College of New Jersey, Matthew Wund (editor), The College of New Jersey, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

2011. "BirdFacts" (On-line). British Trust for Ornithology. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://blx1.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob14860.htm.

2009. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Certhia familiaris. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/151125/0.

Facts On File, Inc. 2011. "creeper" (On-line). Science Online. Accessed February 22, 2011 at http://fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE40&SID=5&iPin=NS50372&SingleRecord=True.

Aho, T., M. Kuitunen, J. Suhonen, A. Jäntti. 2010. Determination of clutch size in Treecreepers Certhia familiaris under food and time constraints. Ornis Fennica, 87: 77-92. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://www.ornisfennica.org/pdf/vol87-3/1Aho.pdf.

Aho, T., M. Kuitunen, J. Suhonen, A. Jäntti, T. Hakkari. 1997. Behavioural responses of Eurasian treecreepers, Certhia familiaris, to competition with ants. Animal Behaviour, 54/5: 1283-90. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9398381.

Aho, T., M. Kuitunen, J. Suhonen, A. Jäntti, T. Hakkari. 1999. Reproductive Success of Eurasian Treecreepers, Certhia familiaris, Lower in Territories with Wood Ants. Ecology, 80/3: 998–1007. Accessed February 22, 2011 at http://www.esajournals.org/doi/full/10.1890/0012-9658%281999%29080%5B0998%3ARSOETC%5D2.0.CO%3B2.

Beletsky, L. 2006. Birds of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Burton, L. 2003. Fish & Wildlife: Principles of Zoology and Ecology. New York: Delmar Publishers.

Dittmann, D., S. Cardiff, P. Clement, S. Swaby, G. Rosenberg, A. Jaramillo, K. Vinicombe, T. Harris, K. Garrett, A. Chartier, P. Hess. 2009. National Geographic Complete Birds of the World. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Dunning, J. 2009. CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Fransson, T., T. Kolehmainen, C. Kroon, L. Jansson, T. Wenninger. 2010. "European Databank Longevity Records" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2011 at http://www.euring.org/data_and_codes/longevity.htm.

Jantti, A. 2005. "Effects of interspecific relationships in forested landscapes on breeding success in Eurasian treecreeper" (On-line pdf). Accessed April 13, 2011 at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:951-39-2046-1.

Jäntti, A., H. Hakkarainen, M. Kuitunen, J. Suhonen. 2007. The importance of landscape structure for nest defence in the Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. Ornis Fennica, 84: 145–154. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://www.ornisfennica.org/pdf/vol84-4/1Jantti.pdf.

Jäntti, A., P. Suorsa, H. Hakkarainen, J. Sorvari, E. Huhta, M. Kuitunen. 2007. Within territory abundance of red wood ants Formica rufa is associated with the body condition of nestlings in the Eurasian treecreeper Certhia familiaris. Journal of Avian Biology, 38/5: 619-624. Accessed February 22, 2011 at http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?hid=113&sid=b39bdbc5-2b43-4911-9b8f-13a4e5bc7a57%40sessionmgr112&vid=3&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=eih&AN=26451610.

Lindstedt, S., W. Calder. 1976. Body Size and Longevity in Birds. The Condor, Vol. 78, No. 1: 91-94. Accessed March 17, 2011 at http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Condor/files/issues/v078n01/p0091-p0094.pdf.

Norberg, R. 1986. Treecreeper climbing; mechanics, energetics, and structural adaptations. Orniss Candinavica, 17: 191-209. Accessed March 17, 2011 at http://bdml.stanford.edu/twiki/pub/Main/PerchingPapers/Norberg.pdf.

Osiejuk, T., L. Kuczynski. 2003. Response to typical, mixed and shortened song versions in Eurasian treecreepers, Certhia familiaris. Biologia, Bratislava, 58/5: 985-989. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://main2.amu.edu.pl/~zbiep/pdf/biologia_response.pdf.

Teija, A., M. Kuitunen, T. Hakkari, J. Suhonen, A. Jäntti. 2009. Effects of male removal on reproductive success and provisioning in the Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris). Ornis Fennica, 86: 1-10. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://www.ornisfennica.org/pdf/vol86-1/1Aho.pdf.

Thielcke, G. 1986. Constant Proportions of Mixed Singers in Tree Creeper Populations (Certhia familiaris). Ethology, 72/2: 154-164. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0310.1986.tb00615.x/abstract.

Wikelski, M., S. Cooke. 2006. Conservation physiology. TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution, 21/2: 38-46. Accessed February 23, 2011 at http://faculty.bennington.edu/~sherman/advanced%20physiol%20/conservation%20physiology.pdf.