Brown creepers and nuthatches are both birds that eat insects and live in Illinois, but the most notable thing they have in common is something that, if you notice, you have to do a double take.
Both of these birds forage up trees, searching for insects. If you look at one closely enough, you may notice that the bird you are watching is perched upside down. Creepers and nuthatches are the only two birds that do this, at least in the Illinois area, so they are very distinctive when you are birdwatching. They are interesting birds outside of perching upside down as well, and they are always neat to see in the wild.
The most common type of nuthatch in Illinois is the white-breasted nuthatch, which is pictured above. There are many other species of nuthatch across the United States, however. It is a slightly uncommon bird, although if you look carefully and use the correct attraction techniques, you might be able to see one.
Nuthatches can be attracted with suet, since it provides the protein and fat they'd usually get from eating bugs. The white-breasted nuthatch's call sounds like a soft beeping noise, and if you are near a tree, you might hear one from just above you. White-breasted nuthatches are relatively easy to spot because of their bright white faces, as well as the blue-grey color in the rest of their feathers.
Brown creepers, pictured above, are very similar to nuthatches in behavior, although they are from a completely different family of birds called treecreepers. Most treecreepers live in Australia, and brown creepers are the only species native to North America. They tend to be relatively smaller both in body and beak compared to nuthatches, and they also are harder to spot because they blend in more with trees. Their mottled light brown color can be almost invisible on tree bark, so they are easiest to spot if you happen to see a glimpse of their bright white underbelly. Like nuthatches, brown creepers can be attracted with suet, since they also eat bugs.
These upside-down birds can add a shade of variety to your yard if you look closely, and they are rather cute to boot. So, next time you're near the trees in your back yard, keep a look out for a little white face, or a puff of brown mottled feathers. You just might have seen a nuthatch or brown creeper.
Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar/Flickr