TREE-CREEPER, one of the smaller British birds, and generally distributed. It is Certhia familiaris, and is remarkable for the stiffened shafts of its long and pointed tail-feathers, aided by which, and by its large feet, it climbs the trunks or branch es of trees, proceeding upwards or outwards, generally in a spiral direction, as it seeks the small insects that are hidden in the bark and that form its chief food. It never climbs head-downwards like the nuthatch (q.v.). Inconspicuous in its upper plumage of brown mottled with white, buff and tawny—for the silvery white of its underparts is not usually visible—the tree-creeper is more common than the incurious suppose; though a shy singer, its song is loud and sweet. The nest is placed behind a half-detached piece of bark and a mass of material is used to give a sure founda tion for the tiny cup, in which are laid from six to nine eggs of a translucent white, spotted or blotched with rust-colour.
The tree-creeper inhabits almost the whole of Europe as well as Algeria and has been traced across Asia to Japan. It is an inhabitant of the greater part of North America. On the Euro pean continent a second species, C. brachydactyla, is found. This is hardly to be distinguished from C. familiaris in appearance but has a quite different song, and lives in gardens and parks rather than in woodland.
Allied to the tree-creeper, but without its stiff tail-feathers, is the genus Tichodroma, the single member of which is the beau tiful wall-creeper (T. muraria) of the Alps and some other moun tainous parts of Europe and Asia. It is occasionally seen in Switzerland, fluttering up the face of a rock, conspicuous from the scarlet-crimson of its wing-coverts and its white spotted pri maries. Its bright hue is hardly visible when the bird is at rest, and it then presents a dingy appearance of grey and black. It is a species of wide range, extending from Spain to China.
The passerine family Certhiidae contains a number of genera of birds to which the general name "creeper" is applied; they occur in North America, Europe and Asia, the greater part of Africa, and Australia and New Guinea.
Primitive man, observing the growth and death of trees, the elasticity of their branches, the sensitiveness and the annual decay and revival of their foliage, anticipated in his own way the tendency of modern science to bridge the gulf between the animal and the vegetable world. Sober Greek philos ophers (Aristotle, Plutarch) thought that trees had perceptions, passions and reason. The beliefs of primitive man were part of a small stock of fundamental ideas which persist in one form or another over a large portion of the world, and have found a place in the higher religions.
Trees and Human Life.—Numerous popular stories reflect a firmly rooted belief in an intimate connection between a human being and a tree, plant or flower. Sometimes a man's life depends upon the tree and suffers when it withers or is injured, and we encounter the idea of the external soul, already found in the Egyptian "Tale of the Two Brothers" of some 3,00o years ago. Here one of the brothers leaves his heart on the top of the flower of the acacia and falls dead when it is cut down. Some times, however, the tree is an index, a mysterious token which shows its sympathy with an absent hero by weakening or dying, as the man becomes ill or loses his life. These two features easily combine, and represent a mysterious sympathy between tree- and human-life, which, as a matter of fact, frequently manifests itself in recorded beliefs and customs of historical times. Thus, some times a new-born child is associated with a newly planted tree with which its life is supposed to be bound up; or, on ceremonial occasions (betrothal, marriage, ascent to the throne), a personal relationship of this kind is instituted by planting trees, upon the fortunes of which the career of the individual depends. Some times, moreover, boughs or plants are selected and the individual draws omens of life and death from the fate of his or her choice. Again, a man will put himself into relationship with a tree by depositing upon it something which has been in the closest con tact with himself (hair, clothing, etc.).