Physical characteristics

Size, coloration, and markings allow creepers to blend almost flawlessly with their preferred habitat, the rough brown bark of trees. Treecreepers are small, about 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) in length, and have a long, thin, curved bill, a slender tail, and streamlined, teardrop-shaped bodies. The twelve stiff, pointed tail feathers have shafts that project beyond the vanes. In all but the bar-tailed treecreeper (Certhia himalayana), this results in giving the tail a bristly appearance at the terminus. Treecreepers use their highly specialized tails to help them climb, but spotted creepers, which hold their tails away from the trunk, do not.

The legs of treecreepers appear disproportionately short, but this very functional design, along with long toes and claws, enables them to cling closely to the side of trees as they search for food.

Plumage variation among species can be subtle and confusing. The cryptic upperparts are mostly shades of brown with streaks or streaky spots of black, gray, buff, and white. All species have a noticeable buff or white eyebrow, though it is less pronounced in some. Underparts are buff or white, with shades of cinnamon, rufous, or gray less common. Males and females are similar in appearance in both size and color. Juvenal plumage is somewhat duller and more streaky on the upperparts, but first-year birds are otherwise identical to adults. Spotted creepers are also highly cryptic but distinctively barred and more prominently spotted than treecreepers.

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