Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis

14.5cm

Appearance

The Meadow Pipit is marginally smaller than the Tree Pipit, and its bill is thinner. It is brownish and darkly streaked on top, pale and darkly streaked below, the breast and flanks are tinged with yellow and are also darkly spotted and streaked. The outside feathers of the tail are white, the legs are pinkish, the throat is uniform and pale, and there is a pale ring around the eye. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but the dark streaks are more subtle, particularly on the flanks.

Habitat

Prefers expansive countryside for breeding; moors and heaths are suitable, as are saltmarshes and dune systems. During winter, feeding occurs on farmland, marshes near the coast, and along the margins of waterways.

Character

Has a habit of beginning songflight when on the ground; the song continues as the bird gains altitude and then plummets downwards with its wings partially open. When not breeding, may socialise in flocks and may feed in the company of Skylarks. Usually eats while on the ground, rarely perching in winter or on migration; it appears quite stiff when on the ground, its movements jolty.

Food

Diet includes invertebrates such as craneflies, mayflies, beetles, moths, spiders and also some seeds.

Breeding

Female usually lays 4 or 5 eggs at the end of March; she incubates them for 13 days, with occasional help from the male, and there are commonly two broods in a season.

Population

The Meadow Pipit is a resident and a migrant bird, and is in the region throughout the year. Breeding birds may depart their upland sites in August; some depart the region while others stay and spend winter in lowland areas. Scandinavian birds visit the region, and Ireland in particular sees lots of these visitors. Departing birds leave in March and April. Approximately 2 million pairs are found in the UK and over 500 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

The Meadow Pipit is widely distributed all year round, so finding it is relatively simple. Some problems may lie in distinguishing this bird from ones that appear similar, so there is great benefit in the ability to identify the Meadow Pipit's song.

Voice

Has a 'pseet-pseet-pseet' call, usually given when flying. During flight display, utters a mournful 'seep, seep' proceeded by a repetitive 'tseut, tseut'.
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