Bird GuideWagtails and PipitsRed-throated Pipit

At a Glance

Widespread across northern Europe and Asia, this pipit enters North America as a nesting bird only in a very limited area of western Alaska. There it breeds mostly at the western end of the Seward Peninsula, and on offshore islands such as St. Lawrence and Little Diomede. Surprisingly, a few Red-throated Pipits often show up along the California coast in fall. These lost migrants usually associate with flocks of American Pipits in open fields.
Perching Birds, Wagtails and Pipits
Low Concern
Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Most birds breeding in Alaska probably migrate south in Asia. Small but variable numbers (mostly immatures) go down Pacific Coast in fall; in California, seen mostly in October.


6" (15 cm). Spring male has pink chest, throat, and face. Females and fall birds duller, and fall immatures lack pink. All have strong stripes on back, pale legs, sharp face pattern.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Red, Tan, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Call a sharp seeep, or see-eep.


Tundra in summer; during migration, fields. In Alaska, breeds on tundra, mostly in fairly dry rocky areas next to hummocky sedge meadows. Migrants elsewhere in North America have been mostly in short grass or plowed fields, occasionally at edge of water.



5-6, sometimes 3-7. Pale gray to buff, finely spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, about 11-13 days. Male feeds female during incubation.


Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 11-15 days after hatching.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by walking on the ground, picking up items from ground or from low growth. Often probes with its bill among low vegetation. Large insects may be pounded on the ground before they are eaten.


Mostly insects. Diet in North America is not well known. In Eurasia, summer diet is mostly insects, including many midges, crane flies, mosquitoes, beetles, caterpillars, small bees, moths, and many others. Also eats spiders, centipedes, small snails, and seeds of grasses and other plants.


To defend nesting territory, male performs flight-song: flies up, glides a short distance, then sails or parachutes down while singing. In courtship, male faces female, quivers wings and tail, and raises bill to show off red throat. Nest site is on ground, usually against side of hummock or partly sheltered by rock or low shrub. Male apparently begins nest by scraping small hollow in moss; female builds nest, with male bringing much of material. Nest is cup of grass, leaves, moss, lined with finer grass and sometimes with animal hair or feathers.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

No obvious trends in the small Alaskan breeding population.