Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

American Pipit

Anthus rubescens

Nesting in the far north and on mountaintops, American Pipits can be found throughout the continent during migration or winter. At those seasons they are usually in flocks, walking on shores or plowed fields, wagging their tails as they go. Often they are detected first as they fly over high, giving sharp pi-pit calls.
Conservation status Some analyses of Christmas Bird Counts have suggested declining numbers; however, species is still widespread and common.
Family Wagtails and Pipits
Habitat Tundra, alpine slopes; in migration and winter, plains, bare fields, shores. Breeds on tundra, both in far north and in high mountains above treeline, in areas with very low growth such as sedges, grass, and dwarf willows. In migration and winter found on flat open ground such as plowed fields, short-grass prairie, mudflats, shores, river sandbars.
Nesting in the far north and on mountaintops, American Pipits can be found throughout the continent during migration or winter. At those seasons they are usually in flocks, walking on shores or plowed fields, wagging their tails as they go. Often they are detected first as they fly over high, giving sharp pi-pit calls.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages by walking on the ground, taking insects from the ground or from low plants. Sometimes forages while walking in very shallow water. Except in the breeding season, usually forages in flocks.


Eggs

4-6, sometimes 3-7. Whitish to pale buff, heavily spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, 13-16 days. Male feeds female during incubation period. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Female broods young much of the time during first few days; male may bring food for her and for young. Young usually leave nest at about 14 days, are fed by parents for about another 2 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Female broods young much of the time during first few days; male may bring food for her and for young. Young usually leave nest at about 14 days, are fed by parents for about another 2 weeks.

Diet

Mostly insects, also some seeds. Insects make up great majority of summer diet; included are many flies, true bugs, beetles, caterpillars, moths, and others. Also eats some spiders, millipedes, ticks. Migrants along coast may eat tiny crustaceans and marine worms. Inland in fall and winter, seeds of grasses and weeds may make up close to half of diet.


Nesting

Male performs song-flight display to defend nesting territory and attract a mate. In display, male begins singing on ground, flies up (often to 100' or more), then glides or parachutes down again with wings fully opened, singing all the way. Nest site is on ground in sheltered spot, usually protected under overhanging grass, small rock ledge, or piece of sod. Nest (built by female only) is a cup of grass, sedges, and weeds, lined with finer grass and sometimes with animal hair or feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks, apparently traveling mostly by day.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks, apparently traveling mostly by day.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Flight song a weak and tinkling trill; call a paired, high-pitched pip-pip.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Wagtails and Pipits Perching Birds

American Pipit

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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