My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

The American Pipit as it is known in North America, is a small songbird found on both sides of the northern Pacific. It was first described by Marmaduke Tunstall in his 1771 Ornithologia Britannica. It was formerly classified as a form of the Water Pipit.

Like most other pipits, it is an undistinguished-looking species which usually can be seen to run around on the ground. The American Pipit has lightly streaked grey-brown upper-parts and is diffusively streaked below on the buff breast and flanks. The belly is whitish, the bill and legs are dark.

Like its relatives, this species is insectivorous. The breeding habitat of American Pipit is tundra, but outside the breeding season it is found in open lightly vegetated areas, similar to those favored by the Water Pipit.

Nests are most often found on the ground in dry or wet meadows, always with a helpful protection, but they are never placed in shrubs or trees. The composition of the ideal nest depends on whatever is around the nesting area, but it is usually made of sedge, remains or new fine grass, and sometimes some horse hairs. The final issue American pipits have to deal with is nest success. The nest is indeed the target for numerous predators such as ants or hawks. If this step is successful, an egg can be produced. The female will not lay an egg if the conditions, such as temperature and nesting site, are not optimal. If the first attempt fails, her time to lay an egg is reduced. In general, American pipits continuously lay eggs over a period of 4 to 5 days after snow-melt (in April–May) to mid-July. In general, the clutch size is 5 eggs but it can vary according to snowfalls, the parents’ reproductive ability and predation. Eggs are incubated for 13–14 days. During this time, the female does not leave the nest, but is still very reactive to any movement around its habitat. It communicates by singing to the male that brings her food and defends its territory. Four or five days after hatching, the young is skinny, blue-gray in color and only has its secondary feathers. For a week, the female will brood its clutch but both parents will feed them. After these 7 days, the birds are ready for fledging but they will still be fed by their parents 14 days after their departure. Finally, immature birds will form little flocks with other immature birds and wander off.

On to my photos:

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens

This is number 141 in my photo life list, only 209 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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8 responses

  1. I’ve never even heard of a pipit, much less seen one. You got some great shots of it, especially that last one!

    January 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

    • Thanks Allen. Neither had I, but it turns out that they are actually quite common. I may have seen them in the past and thought them to be a species of thrush.

      January 16, 2014 at 2:37 am

  2. We have meadow pipits over here.

    January 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    • So I found out, there was a lot more information available about them than our American pipits.

      January 16, 2014 at 2:39 am

  3. I have never heard of a pipit. Never even knew they existed–glad to learn something new this morning.

    January 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

    • Thanks Kathy. You’ll have to keep your eyes open for these next spring and fall, the photos of the one perched on the wire were taken just a few miles south of you.

      January 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm

  4. Love the wing stretch pic! Pipits are pretty small, right? Are they hard to spot? Maybe that sharp beak is a quick way to pick them out of the little brownish bird category? How adorable! Thx for sharing!

    January 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    • Thanks! The pipits are smaller than a robin, but larger than a bluebird, if that helps.

      January 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm