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Bird in the Spotlight: Wallcreeper

27 February, 2024

By Alexander Trifunovic

Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) in Pakistan. Photo by Imran Shah

 

Like a giant feathered butterfly, the Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) flutters across sheer cliffs in high alpine regions of Europe and Asia. Their black wings painted with vibrant red and spotted with white combined with a long probing bill make this one of the most distinctive songbirds in Eurasia. Wallcreepers favor rugged cliffs, talus slopes, and shaded gorges with holes for nesting in remote mountainous regions up to 5000 meters during the breeding season. In the winter months, they can be seen on sea cliffs, quarry walls, and cathedrals in towns and major cities. Wallcreepers seem to defy gravity as they hop along vertical rock faces searching cracks and crevices for a variety of insects and larvae, including honeybees, owlet moths (Noctuidae), crickets and grasshoppers (Orthoptera), and in winter, hibernating spiders and flies. They have a characteristic movement pattern that includes perpetual wing flicking that displays their brilliant red and white markings, and this behavior may serve as a way of communicating in place of contact calls. Wallcreepers breed in sheltered holes or crevices on steep rock faces with grasses and vegetation, and sometimes in pipes on the stone walls of buildings. Nest sites often have two entrances, one for him and one for her, and the parents share the task of bringing food to the nestlings. Based on studies in Europe, Wallcreepers are highly successful breeders with nest losses being rare and pairs averaging three to four young fledged per nest. This is likely due to the remote and inaccessible nature of the nest sites.

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