Birds – American Pipit

(Anthus pensilvanicus) Wagtail family


Length—6.38 to 7 inches. About the size of a sparrow.

Male and Female—Upper parts brown; wings and tail dark olive-brown; the wing coverts tipped with buff or whitish, and ends of outer tail feathers white, conspicuous in flight. White or yellowish eye-ring, and line above the eye. Underneath light buff brown, with spots on breast and sides, the under parts being washed with brown of various shades. Feet brown. Hind toe-nail as long as or longer than the toe.

Range—North America at large. Winters south of Virginia to Mexico and beyond.

Migrations—April. October or November. Common in the United States, chiefly during the migrations.

The color of this bird varies slightly with age and sex, the under parts ranging from white through pale rosy brown to a reddish tinge; but at any season, and under all circumstances, the pipit is a distinctly brown bird, resembling the water thrushes not in plumage only, but in the comical tail waggings and jerkings that alone are sufficient to identify it. However the books may tell us the bird is a wagtail, it certainly possesses two strong characteristics of true larks: it is a walker, delighting in walking or running, never hopping over the ground, and it has the angelic habit of singing as it flies.

During the migrations the pipits are abundant in salt marshes or open stretches of country inland, that, with lark-like preference, they choose for feeding grounds. When flushed, all the flock rise together with uncertain flight, hovering and wheeling about the place, calling down dee-dee, dee-dee above your head until you have passed on your way, then promptly returning to the spot from whence they were disturbed. Along the roadsides and pastures, where two or three birds are frequently seen together, they are too often mistaken for the vesper sparrows because of their similar size and coloring, but their easy, graceful walk should distinguish them at once from the hopping sparrow. They often run to get ahead of some one in the lane, but rarely fly if they can help it, and then scarcely higher than a fence-rail. Early in summer they are off for the mountains in the north. Labrador is their chosen nesting ground, and they are said to place their grassy nest, lined with lichens or moss, flat upon the ground—still another lark trait. Their eggs ace chocolate-brown scratched with black.