Bird of the Week, September 28, 2012
Sprague's Pipit


Sprague's Pipit by Greg Lavaty


The Sprague’s Pipit is a bird of cryptic appearance and secretive habits, but on its breeding grounds, the male puts on a prolonged, vocal flight display – one of the longest of any bird, lasting for 30 minutes to three hours at a time. The male circles hundreds of feet above the prairie during this lengthy display, singing its lovely, cascading song; often it’s the only reliable way to find this bird in the vast landscapes it inhabits.


Formerly more widespread and numerous during early settlement, the pipit has declined dramatically as suitable native prairie has disappeared due to overgrazing, cultivation, and the introduction and invasion of non-native plants.


Conservation of the Sprague’s Pipit depends on the protection, maintenance, and restoration of native mixed grass prairie in suitably large expanses, and the control of non-native plants and incursion by woody vegetation. Prescribed fire is used to control woody vegetation both on the breeding and U.S. wintering grounds, and moderate to heavy seasonal grazing, at least in the mixed-grass portion of its range, may be beneficial to the bird. ABC and partners are also working to protect grasslands in the species’ Mexican winter range.




Photo: Greg Lavaty; Range Map, NatureServe