anonymous spotter's picture

Meadow Pipit

Observed: 28th October 2009 By: anonymous spotter
Skylark 2
Skylark
Description:

In the old graveyard at the Headland. A good place for wildlife, but your car is at risk around there.

Identifications
Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) interacts

Comments

anonymous spotter's picture

Identification

I did think of a tree pipit, but there were skylarks flying in the vicinity, and it seemed a bit close to housing - I think they prefer more rural areas?

ed stevens's picture

identification

it is definatly a pipit rather than a skylark and the head pattern, whitish belly and lightly barred sides do make it look more like a tree pipit than meadow pipit. The only things that make me question tree pipit is the yellow bill and the date seen. Tree pipits are migratory, and this could explaine why it was seen away from its normal habitat, but late October does seem a little late in the year for tree pipit.

Urophora's picture

October, E coast. I am sure

October, E coast. I am sure this is a pipit. It does not look like Meadow or Tree, and Tree is unlikely to be around anyway. What about Red-throated? Unfortunately, the diagnostic features are on top. What does not fit with anything is the reference to 'song'.

RoyW's picture

I see no reason not to call this a Meadow Pipit.

As has been said by others this is definitely a pipit (all species of pipit are as likely to turn up near housing as Skylarks - and remember that migrant birds can turn up in unusual places in spring and autumn).
Pipits are often easier to identify in the field than from photos (once you know which features to look for), with calls often diagnostic. Meadow, Tree & Red-throated Pipits could all occur in the locality in late October, with Meadow by far the most likely at the time and place.
None of the features that can be seen in these photographs are outside of the normal variation of Meadow Pipit, so there is no reason to treat it as anything other than this (always eliminate the most likely species before considering something rarer).

All three species can vary in plumage detail, but I would expect Tree Pipit to have buff colouring on the throat, breast and flanks which contrasted with the white belly, as well as a dark loral stripe (in front of the eye) + a proportionately longer, heavier bill.
A Red-throated Pipit would probably have heavier, more contrasting streaking above and on the flanks (the contrast on the left photo appears to be poorly adjusted giving a false impression of the way the bird looks). There would possibly also be some streaking visible on the sides of the rump - the rump is partially visible in the right photograph.

anonymous spotter's picture

Song

The song and flight observed were definitely skylarks, but that doesn't make this bird one of them, of course - that was my inference, wrongly as it turns out! They just happened to be in the vicinity, it seems. This bird was the only "co-operative" one, and flitted from gravestone to gravestone. I didn't see it flying other than that.
I'm not sure whether to be glad or sorry to have sparked the debate - grateful for all comments...

RoyW's picture

Constructive debate is never a bad thing.

One of the best things about this sort of site is that it provides the opportunity for debate about difficult ID's. There's no reason to ever be sorry about posting something that starts a debate - discussion about less straight forward ID's is the best way for everyone to learn something!

bobthebirder's picture

pipit

The concentration of streaks in the middle of the breast making a dark spot is a very good feature for meadow pipit and is shown well of the photo on the left. The flank streaking on a tree pipit is usually more regular than on this bird, making more distinct lines. Most birders wait until they call though.

Bob Ford