Living Bird Magazine
Sprague's PipitAnthus spragueii
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Motacillidae
An unassuming bird with plain buffy plumage, Sprague’s Pipit possesses an amazing song flight, hovering on rapidly fluttering wings high above its territory, singing a lovely, downward-swirling song during bursts of gliding. When not singing, this species is very difficult to find in its prairie and grasslands habitats, often not seen until it flushes from nearly underfoot. Because Sprague’s Pipit relies on native prairie and grasslands, its populations have declined tremendously as a result of the destruction of these habitats across interior North America.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Sprague’s Pipits in wildlife refuges and other patches of native prairie during spring and early summer, when the males’ song flights make them easy to find and lovely to watch. Away from the breeding grounds, Sprague’s Pipits stay nearly invisible among grasses that are usually taller than the birds—you’ll need to walk patiently through grassy areas and hope to flush a pipit. If the bird gives a squeaky call and flies upward, it is a Sprague’s Pipit. The more widespread American Pipit has a different call and flushes away, not up.
- Bisbita Llanero (Spanish)
- Pipit de Sprague (French)
- Cool Facts
- John James Audubon was the first naturalist to describe Sprague’s Pipit. He named it after his friend, Isaac Sprague, who discovered the first nest of the species near Fort Union, North Dakota, in June 1843.
- Displaying males often remain airborne for half an hour. In one case, a male Sprague's Pipit was observed displaying for 3 hours before descending to the ground. No other bird species is known to perform such prolonged displays.