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Sprague's Pipit

Anthus spragueii ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: MOTACILLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

A rare and declining songbird of the northern prairie, Sprague's Pipit is a small bird of the open grasslands. Though it feeds and nests exclusively on the ground, the species performs the longest known flight display of any bird.

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
3.9–5.9 in
10–15 cm
Weight
0.8–0.9 oz
22–26 g
Other Names
  • Pipit de Sprague (French)
  • Bisbita llanera (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Displaying males often remain airborne for half an hour. In one case, a male Sprague's Pipit was observed displaying for three full hours before descending to the ground. No other bird species is known to perform such prolonged displays

Habitat


Grassland

Breeds and winters in open grassland with good drainage and no shrubs or trees.

Food


Insects

Mostly insects and spiders, as well as some seeds.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
4–6 eggs
Egg Description
Pale whitish with brown blotches.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and helpless.
Nest Description

A cup woven of fine grasses placed on the ground. Some nests have canopies of long grasses, sometimes forming a complete dome.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Ground Forager

Territorial male performs a display by flying from the ground into the wind, ascending to 50-100 meters off the ground, singing and gliding (often pushed backward by the wind), then flapping again and repeating, and finally plummeting straight down and flying into the grass. Picks prey from ground or grasses while walking or running.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Vulnerable

Loss of habitat, as native prairie has been overgrazed and converted for farmland, has led to dramatic declines in Sprague's Pipit populations throughout its range. This species is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.

Credits

  • Robbins, M. B., and B. C Dale. 1999. Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii). In The Birds of North America, No. 439 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

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