|Conservation status||Numbers have declined in much of range as breeding habitat has been converted to agricultural fields.|
|Family||Wagtails and Pipits|
|Habitat||Plains, shortgrass prairies. Breeds in relatively dry grassland, especially native prairie, avoiding brushy areas and cultivated fields. Winters in similar shortgrass habitats including pastures and prairies, and grassy patches within fields of crops such as alfalfa.|
Forages by walking on the ground, usually among fairly dense short grass, searching for insects and seeds. Forages alone, not in flocks.
4-5, rarely 3-6. Whitish, heavily spotted with maroon or purplish-brown. Incubation is probably by female, incubation period not well known. Adult does not fly to nest, but lands several feet away and walks there. Incubating bird may not flush from nest until approached within a few feet. Young: Fed by female, possibly by male, but details not well known. May leave nest as early as 10-11 days after hatching, before able to fly well. Adults may raise 2 broods per year.
Fed by female, possibly by male, but details not well known. May leave nest as early as 10-11 days after hatching, before able to fly well. Adults may raise 2 broods per year.
Mostly insects, some seeds. Diet is not known in detail. Apparently eats mainly insects, especially in summer, including grasshoppers, crickets, various beetles, moths, and others. Also eats many small seeds of grasses and weeds, perhaps more in fall and winter. Young birds are fed almost entirely on insects.
Male sings to defend nesting territory, spiraling up to 300' or even higher above the ground, then hovering and circling for several minutes while singing repeatedly. In some cases, a single song-flight may last half an hour or even longer. Nest site is on ground in grassy field, usually in a slight depression or tucked into the side of a clump of grass. Nest (probably built by female) is a solidly woven cup of dry grass stems, sometimes lined with finer grass. Often has grass arched over the top, with entrance at the side.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsFlight song, performed high in the air, is a descending series of tinkling double notes. Call a series of sharp pips.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Sprague's Pipit
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Sprague's Pipit
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.