Background: Identification of damage at an early stage is crucial for critical structural components. Objective: Creep induced micro-voids in heat treated polycrystalline pure copper are experimentally and numerically characterized. Methods: This is accomplished by the use of non-linear ultrasonic waves. Numerically, the study is carried out on an elastic material with randomly located micro-voids. The finite difference in time domain method is used. Results: Experimentally it is found that material damage due to micro-voids that are developed before 40% creep life may effectively be detected with nonlinear ultrasonic waves in the low power regime. Increase in second order nonlinearity parameter with percentage creep life is observed along with the corresponding increase in micro-void concentration. Optical metallography and micro-hardness measurements were used to corroborate the experimental results. For the numerical studies, void dimensions selected for study are much lower than the probing wave length. Concentration of micro-voids is varied from 0.01% to 3%. The second order nonlinearity parameter showed a slight increase in the initial stages and an abrupt increase with higher micro-void concentration in simulations. This agrees with experimental trends. Conclusion: The feasibility of detecting micro-voids in the early stages of creep using nonlinear ultrasonic waves is experimentally demonstrated and a simple model with voids is numerically studied to show the sensitivity of the second order nonlinearity parameter to micro voids. © 2020, Society for Experimental Mechanics.