( 452 )
THE BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPER
Certhia varia, Wils.
PLATE XC. Male.
A more appropriate name has seldom been given to a bird than that by which the present species is designated. Notwithstanding the approximation of the bill in form to that of the Sylviæ, I am decidedly inclined to place this species among the Creepers or Certhiæ. To convince you of the propriety of such an arrangement, I shall now lay before you an account of its habits.
The Black-and-white Creeper appears in the State of Louisiana as soon as the buds on the trees begin to expand, which happens about the middle of February. It throws itself into the forests, where it breeds, and remains until the beginning of November. It is usually seen on the largest trees of our woods. It has a few notes, consisting of a series of rapidly enunciated tweets, the last greatly prolonged. It climbs and creeps along the trunks, the branches, and even the twigs of the trees, without intermission, and so seldom perches, that I do not remember ever having seen it in such a position. It lives principally on small ants and their larvæ, which it secures as it ascends or descends in a spiral direction, sidewise, with the head either uppermost or beneath. It keeps its feet close together, and moves by successive short hops with a rapidity equalling even that of the Brown Creeper. It dives from the tops of the trees to their roots, and again ascends. At other times, it alights on a decayed fallen tree, and searches the bark for food, peeping into the crevices. It has only a very short flight, and moves directly from one tree to the nearest.
In this manner the Black-and-white Creeper reaches the Northern Districts, It always prefers the most uncultivated tracts, and is especially fond of the pines and hemlock-trees of the mountain-glens. I have met with it on the borders of Canada, round Lake Champlain, in the country far to the north-west, on the banks of the Illinois, in Ohio, Kentucky, and all the wooded districts of the Arkansas and Red River.
In Louisiana, its nest is usually placed in some small hole in a tree, and is composed of mosses in a dry state, lined with cottony substances. The eggs are from five to seven, of a short oval form, white, with a few brownish-red spots chiefly at the large end.