The Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
, is a small passerine bird
which breeds in much of the northern half of Europe
and also northwestern Asia
, from southeastern Greenland
east to just east of the Ural Mountains
, and south to central France
; there is also an isolated population in the Caucasus Mountains
. It is migratory
over most of its range, wintering in southern Europe, north Africa
and southwestern Asia
, but is resident in Ireland, Great Britain, and neighbouring areas of western Europe. However, even here, many birds move to the coast or lowlands in winter.
This is a widespread and often abundant small pipit
, 14.5–15 cm long and 15–22 g weight. It is an undistinguished looking species on the ground, mainly brown above and buff below, with darker streaking on most of its plumage; the tail is brown, with narrow white side edges. It has a thin bill and pale pinkish-yellow legs; the hind claw is notably long, longer than the rest of the hind toe. The call is a weak tsi-tsi
. The simple repetitive song is given in a short song flight.
Birds breeding in Ireland
and western Scotland
are slightly darker coloured than those in other areas, and are often distinguished as the subspecies Anthus pratensis whistleri
, though it intergrades clinally with nominate Anthus pratensis pratensis
found in the rest of the species' range.
It is primarily a species of open habitats, either uncultivated or low-intensity agriculture, such as pasture, bogs, and moorland, but also occurs in low numbers in arable croplands. In winter, it also uses saltmarshes and sometimes open woodlands. It is a fairly terrestrial pipit, always feeding on the ground, but will use elevated perches such as shrubs, fence lines or electricity wires as vantage points to watch for predators.
It is similar to the Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
, which is more heavily streaked and (in summer only) has an orange-red throat, and to the Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
, which is slightly larger, less heavily streaked, and has stronger facial markings and a shorter hind claw. The song of the Meadow Pipit accelerates towards the end while that of the Tree Pipit slows down