Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sprague's Pipit

Sprague's Pipit - photo by Lynn Schofield
"One of the least-known birds in North America," according to Cornell's Birds of North America, is Sprague's Pipit. "Most information on this species comes from more general studies of northern prairie avian communities. Until very recently, even the persistent flight displays of territorial males had never been described in detail. These displays often last for over thirty minutes, with an occasional male displaying for up to three hours before returning to the ground. No other avian species is known to make such prolonged flight displays." (Robbins & Dale 1999).

Lynn and I found one yesterday in the dunes near Playa Juan Angel, in central Veracruz, more or less at the southern edge of its winter range.

"This pipit often goes undetected during migration through the Great Plains, and almost nothing is known about its behavior on the wintering grounds in the southwestern and south-central United States and northern Mexico." (Robbins & Dale 1999).

map courtesy of eBird

eBird has very few records south of the US border, where fewer birders are active. Central Veracruz has relatively good birder coverage during the month of October, when many birders from outside the region visit to enjoy the spectacle of migration. Sprague's Pipit, however, arrives after most tourists have left, and therefore perhaps has been reported very infrequently. It may well be a regular winter visitor to open arid areas such as the extensive dune system near Playa Juan Angel, where the more common American Pipit is also found.

Cited literature:
Robbins, Mark B. and Brenda C. Dale. 1999. Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

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