American Pipit Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A small, slim songbird with a short, thin bill, and medium-length tail, recalling a lark (or a sparrow, but lacking a sparrow’s heavier bill).

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Yellow-rumped Warbler, smaller than a White-crowned Sparrow.

    Relative Sizesparrow or smallersparrow-sized or smaller
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
      • Weight: 0.7-0.9 oz (19-26 g)
      • Wingspan: 10.6 in (27 cm)

Regional Differences

Four subspecies have been described. Over much of the continent, from Alaska to Greenland and south into New England, rubescens is the expected subspecies, and the very similar (if duller) pacificus inhabits the Pacific coastal states and British Columbia. In the Rocky Mountains, the larger subspecies alticola breeds; it has little to no streaking below in breeding plumage and can often show rich rosy or pink hues in the underparts. The very heavily streaked subspecies japonicus breeds mostly in northeastern Asia but is known as a fall and winter vagrant from western Alaska south to California.

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