Physical characteristics: Sprague's pipit ranges in length from 6.3 to 7 inches (16 to 18 centimeters) and in weight from 0.8 to 1 ounce (22 to 29 grams). Their pale buff face blends into olive-tan upperparts that are streaked with black and buff. Their undersides are whitish or buff with dark streaks and their outer tail feathers are white. This species has a thin, pale-colored bill, dark eyes, and light-colored legs and feet.
Geographic range: Sprague's pipits occupy areas of Canada, including Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia, and Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the United States. The bird migrates to Mexico and the southern United States in winter.
Habitat: Sprague's pipits inhabit prairies of tall grass and short-grass plains, where their coloring makes them nearly invisible. While migrating, they forage and rest in plowed fields or harvested hay and wheat fields.
Diet: Sprague's pipits eat mainly insects, but sometimes add seeds to their diet.
Behavior and reproduction: This solitary and secretive pipit species is known for flying high into the air when startled. They are also noted for their beautiful, arcing song-flight during mating season in April and May. Mating pairs are monogamous, and build a cup-shaped nest of grass and stems on the ground where tall grass can fall over the structure. The female lays four to seven eggs, and fledglings leave the nest in ten to eleven days.
Sprague's pipits and people: Naturalist and artist James Audubon named this bird after Isaac Sprague, an artist who came with him on a trip up the Missouri River. The first bird of this species was found in 1843.
Conservation status: Sprague's pipits are listed as Vulnerable. Their populations have declined rapidly due to loss of prairie breeding grounds. Prairies have been taken over by agriculture and by the invasion of aggressive plant species. ■
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Ali, S., and S. D. Ripley. Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Clements, J. Birds of the World: A Checklist. Vista, CA: Ibis Publications, 1991.
Sibley, C. G., and B. L. Monroe. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.
Hall, B. P. "The Taxonomy and Identification of Pipits." Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History 7 (1961): 245-289.
"The Motacillidae." Gordon's Motacillidae Page. http://www.earthlife. net/birds/motacillidae.html (accessed on June 24, 2004).
National Wildlife Federation. "Sprague's Pipit." eNature.com. http:// www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesSH.asp?curGroupID=1&shap eID=961&curPageNum=147&recnum=BD0301 (accessed on June 24, 2004).
Olliver, Narena. "Puhoihoi, the New Zealand Pipit." New Zealand Birds Gallery. http://www.nzbirds.com/NZPipit.html (accessed on June 24, 2004).
"Pipits & wagtails: Motacillidae." Bird Families of the World. http://www. montereybay.com/creagrus/pipits.html (accessed on June 24, 2004).
"Pipits and Wagtails: Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea." Bird Guides. http://www.birdguides.com/html/vidlib/species/motacilla_cinerea.htm (accessed on June 24, 2004).
"Pipits, wagtails, longclaws." Birds of the World. http://www.eeb. cornell.edu/winkler/botw/motacillidae.html (accessed on June 24, 2004).
"Sprague's Pipit." Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. http://www. mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i7000id.html (accessed on June 24, 2004).
Class: Aves Order: Passeriformes Family: Campephagidae Number of species: 74 species
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