Water Pipit

Anthus spinoletta

16.5-17cm

Appearance

This is a heavyset Pipit; it is close in size to the Rock Pipit, but its flanks, belly and wing-bars are whiter, and the streaks on the underparts are more distinct. Plumage differs slightly by season. In winter, there's a pale supercilium with a dark strike-through; it is brownish buff on top with dark streaks, while the underparts are paler but still darkly streaked. It has a whitish throat, dark legs, a dark patch on the end of the bill, and white outer tail feathers. Summer plumage is similar, but the underparts lose the dark streaking and the breast gains a pinkish tinge; the neck and head are greyish and the back is a more uniform brown. Juveniles are similar to a winter adult, but they're not present in the region.

Habitat

Habitat in the region includes wetlands, inland marshes, watercress beds and the margins of rivers. Breeding territories are in mountainous areas in the south of Europe and in Asia Minor.

Character

A timid bird that may mingle in small flocks, and roosts in larger groups. When on breeding territories, has a songflight which begins from the ground, and carries on as the bird gains altitude and then plummets downwards with its wings partially open.

Food

Diet includes springtails, flies, moths and their caterpillars, spiders, centipedes, beetles, bees, and some seeds and berries.

Breeding

Not a breeding bird in the region. Female lays 4 or 5 eggs which she incubates for about 14-15 days. Both adults tend to the young, which can fly when they're about 15-16 days old. Quite common to have two broods in a year.

Population

A winter visitor which is usually present between October and April. Breeding birds descend from mountainous nesting sites in autumn. Less than 200 individuals winter in Britain.

Observation Tips

A furtive species that can be quite challenging to locate. Watercress beds in Hampshire and nearby territories are perhaps the most promising areas for Water Pipits, but visits must occur between November and March.

Voice

Has a singular 'pweest' call, and a song that is melodious and similar to the Meadow Pipit's, though it's rarely heard in the region.
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