Sprague's pipit

Sprague's pipit
Anthus spragueii

Photo by Gerald Romanchuk (PBase)

Common name:
Sprague’s pipit (en); petinha-da-pradaria (pt); pipit de Sprague (fr); bisbita llanera (es); präriepieper (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Motacillidae

This species is found breeding in inland areas of southern Canada and the northern United States, from British Columbia to Manitoba and south to Montana and South Dakota. They migrate south to winter in Mexico and the southern United States, from California to Florida and north to Oklahoma and Arkansas. There are isolated wintering areas in South Carolina, Illinois, Nebraska and Utah.

These birds are 14-16 cm long and weigh 22-26 g.

Sprague’s pipits are found in open grasslands with few scrubs, especially in areas of native grasses such as wheat grass, June grass, blue grama, candy blue, green needle grass, smooth brome and crested wheat. During migration they are also found in stubble and fallow agricultural fields and pastures.

They feed on insects and spiders, as well as grass seeds. They are known to eat grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, weevils, bugs, ants and caterpillars.

Sprague’s pipits breed in April-August. They are monogamous and the females build the nest. The nest is small cup made of dry grasses, placed on the ground and sometimes covered by a grass dome. There the female lays 4-7 eggs, which are incubated by the female for 13-14 days. The chicks are fed by the female and fledge 10-11 days after hatching. After hatching the chicks are cared for by the male for 1-2 weeks until becoming independent.

IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 870.000 individuals. The population has undergone a large decline of 34% per decade over the last 4 decades, mainly due to habitat loss caused by the conversion of prairie to seeded pasture, hayfields and cropland, and inappropriate grazing. Further threats include strip-mining for tar sands, the introduction of alien plant species and changes in agricultural management.

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