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Description of the American Pipit


The American Pipit has brownish-gray to gray upperparts with faint streaks, a bold, pale eyeline, variably streaked, whitish to buffy underparts, and a white eye ring. It has an upright posture, and frequently bobs its tail. A number of subspecies account for the plumage variation within the species.
Length 6-7 in.  Wingspan: 11 in.

American Pipit 1 gl
Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

american pipit


Same as male.

Seasonal change in appearance

Nonbreeding birds have slightly browner upperparts.


Juveniles resemble adults.


American Pipits inhabit alpine tundra, and during winter are found in fields, lakeshores, and shortgrass prairie.


American Pipits eat insects and seeds.


American Pipits forage by walking on the ground or in shallow water.


American Pipits breed from Alaska south through the mountaintops of western U.S. mountain states, as well as across central and northern Canada. They retreat from northern areas to winter in the southern U.S. and Mexico, as well as the West Coast. The population is not well measured, but may be stable.

More information:

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

- Female, immature, Washington, Sept

- Underside of same wing

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

The American Pipit was formerly known as the Water Pipit.

Male American Pipits feed the female while she incubates.


The song is a rapid series of "cheedle" notes given in a flight display. The flight call is a 'pi-pit."



The American Pipit’s nest is a cup of grasses and weeds and is lined with finer materials. It is placed on the ground under the shelter of vegetation or a rock ledge.

Number: 4-6.

Color: whitish with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 13-16 days and fledge at about 14 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.