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Sprague's Pipit - BirdForum Opus

Photo by njlarsen
Near Sebastian, Texas, USA, January 2012
Anthus spragueii


Photo by njlarsen
Near Sebastian, Texas, USA, January 2012

15–17 cm (6-6¾ in) Sexes similar.

  • Brown striped overall plumage
  • White outer tail feathers
  • Crown, nape, and upperparts streaked black and buff
  • Wings with two white wingbars.
  • Upper breast finely streaked, rest of underside mostly unmarked.
  • Pale mostly unmarked face with white eyering makes dark brown eye seem large.
  • Bill is thin and mostly pink, legs yellow or pinkish.


North America
Sprague's Pipits migrate north from late March through April, to breed in the northern central plains in Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) and United States (Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota).
Leaves its breeding grounds in late September to winter in southern United States (Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona has the majority of the birds) and Mexico (northern and central).
Vagrants have been recorded in most US states.


This is a monotypic species1.


Prairies, open grasslands and weedy fields in the summer. In winter, temperate grassland up to 2500m, and agricultural areas.


Photo by bobsofpa
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona, USA, May 2005


The diet consists mostly of insects such as beetles and grasshoppers, also spiders, with the addition of some weed seeds. It forages on the ground, singly or in pairs, usually well concealed, but occasionally out in the open.


The male displays by flying up to around 100 m and sings with the tail spread. He circles round then plummets to the ground with the wings closed. The female may fly up to meet him.

The nest is a cup woven from fine grass, placed in a hollow on the ground. Some nests are protected by a tent of long grasses, which sometimes forms a complete dome. The clutch consists of 4-6 pale whitish eggs with brown blotches, incubated by the female for 13 days. The young fledge at 10-11 days. Nest success can be poor, specially in areas where there is parasitization by Brown-headed Cowbirds, commonly in south Saskatchewan, Canada. Low fledging numbers in other areas is usually due to nest predation.


The song, usually in flight, is a series of descending, thin, jingly, musical phrases: ching-a-ring-a-ring-a-ring-a
The call is a squeaky, loud sweep or speep, frequently double notes and when flushed: speep-beep-beep

Conservation Status



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2015. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2015, with updates to August 2015. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Ebird.org
  3. Howell & Webb, 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198540124
  4. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved February 2016)
  5. Cornell, All About Birds

Recommended Citation

External Links