Water Pipit ?

Liz provided me with her photograph of a Pipit taken on a bird group trip to North Wales in November 2012. Family Motacillidae contains 45 species of Pipit and it’s very difficult to differentiate between them. I am building up a picture of their habitats and behaviour.

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The Water Pipit is a winter visitor to the UK and that is what our birders decided to call this one. Other possibilities were Rock or Meadow Pipit; the Tree Pipit is only found in the UK in summer months.

Identification features are:-

• The overall body colour of the Water Pipit is slightly lighter than the Rock Pipit which is an olive / grey colour.
• The legs of the Water Pipit are light in colour whereas the Rock Pipit has dark legs.
• The under-parts of the Water Pipit are white and the streaks tend to be more clearly defined. The outer tail feathers have white edges.
• Although the Meadow Pipit can have whitish outer tail feathers the under-parts of the body are quite light in colour.

I think I would have called this one a Rock Pipit except that the legs were not dark!

In terms of habitat the Water Pipit favours damp grassland, the Rock Pipit tends to be found along rocky coasts and the Meadow Pipit is the most common and can be found almost anywhere.

If you don’t know the calls the behaviour provides a few more clues.

• Water Pipit is shy and tends to fly a long way as soon as it knows it is spotted.
• Eurasian Rock Pipit is more approachable. If disturbed it will fly a short distance close to the ground before landing.
• Meadow Pipit when flushed rises in panic and constantly changes direction.

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