All the treecreepers are similar in appearance, being small birds with streaked and spotted brown upperparts, rufous rumps and whitish underparts. They have long decurved bills, and long stiff tail feathers which provide support as they creep up tree trunks looking for insects. The short-toed treecreeper is 12.5 centimetres (5 in) long and weighs 7.5?11 grams (0.26?0.39 oz). It has dull grey-brown upperparts intricately patterned with black, buff and white, a weak off-white supercilium and dingy underparts contrasting with the white throat. The sexes are similar, but juveniles have whitish underparts, sometimes with a buff belly. This species shares much of its range with the common treecreeper. Compared to the short-toed, that bird is whiter below, warmer and more spotted above, and has a whiter supercilium and slightly shorter bill. However, identification by sight may be impossible for poorly-marked birds
Habitat and Distribution
The short-toed treecreeper breeds in temperate woodlands across Europe from Portugal to Turkey and Greece, and in north west Africa. It prefers well-grown trees, especially oak and avoids pure stands of conifers. Where it shares its European range with common treecreeper, the latter species tends to be found mainly in coniferous forest and at higher altitudes.
The short-toed treecreeper typically seeks invertebrate food on tree trunks, starting near the tree base and spiralling its way up using its stiff tail feathers for support. Unlike a nuthatch, it does not come down trees head first, but flies to the base of another nearby tree. It uses its long thin bill to extract insects and spiders from crevices in the bark. Although normally found on trees, it will occasionally feed on walls or bare ground, or amongst fallen pine needles. It may add some seeds to its diet in the colder months.
The Short-toed nests in tree crevices or behind bark flakes. Old woodpecker nests, crevices in buildings or walls, and artificial nest boxes or flaps are also used. The nest has an often bulky base of twigs, pine needles, grass or bark, and a lining of finer material such as feathers, wool, moss, lichen or spider web. The eggs are laid between April and mid June (typical clutch 5?7 eggs); they are white with purple-red blotches, 15.6 x 12.2 mm (0.6 x 0.5 in) in size. The eggs are incubated by the female alone for 13 ? 15 days until the altricial downy chicks hatch; they are then fed by both parents, but brooded by the female alone, for a further 15 ? 18 days to fledging. This species often raises a second brood. The male starts constructing a new nest while the female is still feeding the first brood, and when the chicks are 10?12 days old, he takes over feeding duties while the female completes the new nest.
Calls and Songs
The call of this species is a repeated shrill tyt...tyt tyt-tyt and the song of the nominate subspecies is an evenly spaced sequence of notes teet-teet-teet-e-roi-tiit. There is some geographical variation; the song of Danish birds is shorter, that of the Cyprus subspecies is very short and simple, and the North African version is lower pitched. European birds do not respond to latter two song variants.