John Pilkington's picture

Problems with Pipits

During many walks in the Brecon Beacons, and more recently Dartmoor, I have briefly encountered many small brown birds that "leap out" of the undergrowth, often as you get within a yard or two of them, and all that I can clearly see is a tail that has a black central (front to back) bar with a similar white bar on either side of it. I have never got a photo, because they appear and disappear so quickly, but I understand that these are most likely to be Meadow Pipits.

Very recently, I encountered what I thought was a slightly larger bird with similar brown-mottled upper feathers but a paler, possibly light grey, underside, that flitted from one granite rock to another more distant one (just as I thought I was getting into camera range) on the high ridges of Dartmoor. My first thought was that it might have been a Rock Pipit, but it too displayed the tail with black and white bars on it as it. Has anyone got a "fool-proof" way of differentiating Pipits?

Perhaps this is an impossible task, because in my experience, they stay still for so little time that even detecting leg colouring etc is difficult. Would appreciate any thoughts though.




ophrys's picture


The way to tell the difference is to get used to their calls. Meadow has a clear, repeated 'sip' call, whereas Tree has a more rasping, rougher 'zeep' call. If you search for their calls on a site like xeno-canto, you will hear the difference. Rock Pipit is a species of the coast, so it is unlikely to be that.

This article might be of interest...


My Flickr photos...

John Pilkington's picture

Pipit Recognition

Many thanks, Ophrys. Interesting article and useful guidance.