Date: 1/12/18 5:51 pm
From: roger freeman <carrotguy55...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) phylogeny
Now, this is fun!

Roger Freeman

On Friday, January 12, 2018, Robert O'Brien <baro...> wrote:

> Oh boy. Them's fightin' words....................
> What I meant to say is that Brown Creeper is about the closest thing*
> _we have here_*
> to a woodpecker. Of course, my statement was more general than that, but
> I'll still defend it.
> If there is something closer in Oregon/US to woodpeckers I want to learn
> what it is.
> We don't have a whole lot of trunk-feeding birds here. Off the top of my
> head we have woodpeckers,
> creepers, and nuthatches. (Tits, kinglets, some warblers and maybe some
> others sometimes feed in trunk crevices
> but not habitually). Woodpeckers and creepers have stiffened, elongated
> central feathers
> (as the roosting photo shows). These are used in balancing these two
> families for their lives
> against vertical or flat surfaces, often or always against tree trunks.
> they roost in a similar fashion.
> Nuthatches do not have such tail feathers. I'm not sure where they roost.
> Woodpeckers have heads/bills adapted to pounding into softer wood while
> creepers
> don't. Woodpeckers usually have two toes forward and two behind while
> creepers have the usual
> 3:1 structure. Yet woodpeckers, especially the smaller ones, feed very
> often in bark crevices just as creepers do.
> While creepers don't excavate true holes as woodpeckers often do, they
> usually nest along tree trunks
> as well; usually under pieces of loose bark, but are not above nesting in
> existing cavities of a sort and even clean
> them out of debris or loose/rotted wood as woodpeckers do.
> I didn't say they were phylogenetic (direct) descendents of woodpeckers or
> a common ancestor.
> There is evolution, and there is *_convergent evolution_* of which I
> claimed the latter.
> That is, they have evolved from different original families to occupy a
> similar habitat and lifestyle
> to another family's descendents. (Cacti & euphorbias are totally
> unrelated family-wise, but
> have evolved similar structures and habitats (succulent, drought tolerant,
> thorns, supressed or absent leaves, etc.).
> Their different upbringing is given away by their totally different
> flowers, however.)
> Another example. Australia has no woodpeckers at all. The closest thing
> that continent has is Riflebirds,
> specifically in my experience, Paradise Riflebird, a flicker-sized bird
> with a (very strong in this case)
> decurved bill like Brown Creeper's miniature bill. It lacks the central,
> stiff tail feathers, it's tail more like
> a nuthatch. Like Creepers, this species has no phylogenetic relationship
> to woodpeckers but has
> evolved similar habits such as foraging in rotting wood.
> The Wallcreeper of Eurasia has a similar clinging lifestyle as their name
> implies, but they also
> lack the central tail feathers with tails like nuthatches to which they
> are sometimes thought to be
> related. They're still working on evolving that feature I guess. They
> have no plans to
> evolve bills capable to boring into rocky cliffs, their preferred habitat.
> So there (hee, hee; how do ya' like them apples?).
> Bob
> On Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 10:33 AM, Nathaniel Wander <nw105...>
> wrote:
>> While I’m guessing that Bob O’Brien offered the remark that Brown
>> Creepers were the “about the closest thing that you can get to a
>> woodpecker” in an act of kindness to lighten the mood and “spare the
>> blushes” of an honest mis-identification, they are, of course, nothing of
>> the sort. Creepers (treecreepers in the Old World) are songbirds: they
>> don’t look like woodpeckers, they don’t behave like woodpeckers and they
>> have no near phylogenetic relationship to woodpeckers. Their one
>> interesting connection to woodpeckers is that they compete with and defend
>> territories against Redheaded Woodpeckers (*Melanerpes erythrocephalus*)
>> in eastern North America. Even still, they prefer arachnids to insects and
>> eat seeds in winter.
>> Brown Creepers’ closest relatives are the as many as ten treecreeper
>> species in Europe and Asia. After that, they appear to be most closely
>> related to gnatcatchers and are considered general kin to wrens—these
>> species comprise the family Certhioidea. There are thought to be about six
>> to nine races of Brown Creepers in North America, not counting a few
>> Mexican races that reach the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. The
>> details of their relationships have been much debated. In the past the
>> North American birds have sometimes been divided into three or four
>> discrete species, sometimes even lumped with the Eurasian Treecreeper (*C
>> familiaris*). There was a proposal before the AOS last spring to divide
>> the present single New World species into a North American species
>> (exclusive of the highland Arizona/New Mexico populations) and a
>> Mexican/Central American species (including highland Arizona/New Mexico
>> populations) possibly to be named Nearctic Creeper and Neotropical Creeper
>> respectively. I can’t see that it has been voted on yet.
>> Otherwise, creepers feed on tree trunks by poking beneath bark flakes
>> rather than boring holes like woodpeckers. They are not cavity nesters,
>> but weavers. They communicate via high pitched calls and songs, not
>> drumming and they are cryptically colored rather than boldly marked. They
>> take insects but prefer arachnids and, of course, their prey range is
>> generally significantly smaller than that of woodpeckers: I’ve found no
>> evidence that they consume ants.
>> It may be that Bob wasn’t genially joking, but was thinking of
>> woodcreepers (Dendrocolaptinae) rather than creepers/treecreepers. These
>> 50-60 odd Central/S American forest birds fall in the woodpecker size range
>> and have some evolutionarily convergent features with the latter including
>> stiff tails which they use woodpecker-like as an important point of contact
>> in shimmying up tree trunks. Woodcreepers generally have heavy bills, but
>> use them for bark-probing like creepers/treecreepers rather than boring
>> like woodpeckers. Their generally cryptic coloration is also sometimes
>> said to be convergent with creepers/treecreepers. Woodcreepers too are
>> passerines, though suboscines (like flycatchers) rather than ‘true’ oscine
>> songbirds. Suboscine songs are generally less complex than those of oscine
>> songbirds and typically are acquired genetically rather than learned.
>> Nathaniel Wander
>> Portland, OR
>> *Max Planck* is supposed to have said:
>> A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and
>> making them see the light, but rather because its opponents
>> eventually die
>> and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
>> *Andreas Wagner* observed of Planck's remark:
>> Science, like nature, advances one funeral at a time. (*Arrival of the
>> Fittest*, p.197)

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