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Sprague's Pipit


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

Both Sexes
3.9–5.9 in
10–15 cm
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



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



Mostly insects and spiders, as well as some seeds.


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 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.


status via IUCN


Sprague's Pipit numbers declined by over 3% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 79%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 900,000 with 43% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 80% breeding in Canada, and 57% wintering in Mexico. The species rates a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Sprague's Pipit is both a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species, and a Tri-National Concern Species, and it is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. 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.


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