Living Bird Magazine
American PipitAnthus rubescens
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Motacillidae
American Pipits are among the very few species of American songbirds that nest in both Arctic tundra and alpine meadows. Although they’re found in the open and are not especially shy, these small birds can still be inconspicuous as they walk briskly through tundra or agricultural fields. They also forage along river and lake shores, much in the manner of a shorebird. If you don’t live in the Arctic or above treeline, look for these birds in winter.More ID Info
Find This Bird
For most people, migration and winter are the best times to find American Pipits. Look and listen carefully for flocks in farm fields and other open areas, where pipits blend with the ground color or can be hidden by stubble. Keep an eye on reservoirs and rivers with sandy or muddy margins where pipits often hunt for aquatic insects. Flying pipits call frequently—often the first clue they are present. A spotting scope can help you pick out distant birds in wide-open spaces.
- Bisbita Pechianteado (Spanish)
- Pipit d'Amérique (French)
- Cool Facts
- American Pipits have a long hind toe (called a hallux) and toenail, similar to longspurs. This adaptation probably helps them when walking and foraging on unstable ground, such as snowfields and mudflats.
- American Pipit was long known as Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta), a species that occurred over much of the Northern Hemisphere. Differences in plumages and calls led scientists to split this complex into multiple species.
- Although we call them American Pipits, this species also occurs across Asia, where it is known as “Buff-bellied Pipit.”
- In an alpine population in the Beartooth Mountains of Wyoming, a snowstorm buried 17 American Pipit nests for 24 hours. All of the nestlings that were 11 days or older survived, and a few of the younger ones did as well.
- The oldest known American Pipit was at least 4 years 1 month old when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in New Hampshire.