The Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) is a small bird found throughout the high mountains of southern Eurasia, including the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Altay Mountains. It is the only member of the genus Tichodroma.
It is sometimes considered to be a member of the nuthatch family, Sittidae, which contains 23 species of passerine bird. In that classification, the subfamily Tichodromadinae contains a single species, the Wallcreeper, and the other subfamily, Sittinae, contains 22 species of “true” nuthatches. This article follows the Handbook of Birds of the World in separating the Wallcreeper as a separate family Tichodromadidae.
Birds from Turkmenistan’s east are slightly darker and are sometimes classed as a separate race T. m. nipalensis.
The Wallcreeper is largely resident, but moves to lower levels in winter, and sometimes wanders further afield, when it sometimes uses quarries and buildings. Birds have wintered as far away as England, and one also wintered on the University of Amsterdam.
This is a 15.5-17cm long bird with stunning crimson, grey, and black plumage, butterfly-like flight, and inaccessible haunts. Its Chinese name means “Rock flower”.
In the breeding season, the male can often be distinguished from the female (depicted) by its black throat, although the female also sometimes has varying degrees of black on the throat.
This charismatic species can be quite tame but is often surprisingly difficult to see on mountain faces.
It feeds on insects, obtained with its long bill, and nests in rock crevices, laying 4-5 speckled white eggs, which are incubated by the female. The male’s song is a sequence of whistles.
In flight, it looks like a strangely colored Hoopoe or giant butterfly but creeps on rock walls like a mouse.
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