American Pipit - Anthus rubescens
(see State Rank Reason below)
State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species is apparently secure and not at risk of extirpation or facing significant threats in all or most of its range.
- Details on Status Ranking and Review
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) Conservation Status Review
Review Date = 09/15/2008
ScoreU - Unknown
ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 km squared (about 8,000-80,000 square miles)
Comment140165 square kilometers based on Natural Heritage Program range maps
Area of Occupancy
ScoreG - 2,000-20,000 km squared (500,000-5,000,000 acres)
Comment4563 square kilometers based on GAP predicted model.
ScoreE - Relatively Stable (±25% change)
CommentNo major changes to covertypes in alpine areas.
ScoreE - Stable. Population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences unchanged or remaining within ±10% fluctuation
CommentStill occupies the same alpine areas in roughly the same densities in 2008 as in the 1970s and 1980s
ScoreF - Widespread, low-severity threat. Threat is of low severity but affects (or would affect) most or a significant portion of the population or area.
CommentClimate change results in tree encroachment into alpine meadow areas species is dependent on. Sheep grazing results in localized impacts to nesting areas.
SeverityLow - Low but nontrivial reduction of species population or reversible degradation or reduction of habitat in area affected, with recovery expected in 10-50 years.
CommentEncroachment of conifers unlikely to be seen in 15-20 years, but reduction in snowpack will alter other vegetation species dependent on more immediately.
ScopeModerate - 20-60% of total population or area affected
CommentOccupied areas within range won't all be impacted, but many will and not necessarily at the same time.
ImmediacyLow - Threat is likely to be operational within 5-20 years.
CommentOngoing, but not having a severe impact yet.
ScoreC - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).
ScoreB - Narrow. Specialist. Specific habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors (see above) are used or required by the Element, but these key requirements are common and within the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.
CommentAlpine tundra and high elevation subalpine meadows.
Small, 15 to 17 cm, slender. Males slightly larger and heavier than females. Not seperated by plumage. Bill short, slender, straight. Bobbing tail with white edge to outer tail feathers. Compare with Sprague's Pipit (the sides of the head and indistinct buffy eye-rings are pale. The lores contrast with dark brown eyes and the ear coverts are plain brownish-buff, usually with a slight reddish tinge. The crown, sides and rear of neck are buffy with sharply defined black streaks. The back is light sandy-brown with broad black streaks, with a paler more prominent buffy stripe down each side. The wings, 7.7 to 8.5 cm long, have blackish-brown feathers with whitish to buffy-brown edging, and two whitish wing bars. The rump and upper tail coverts, paler than the back, are sandy-brown with narrow black streaks (Robbins and Dale 1999). However, Sprague's Pipit has a shorter tail with more white in outer rectrices, more strongly marked upperparts, and paler face without the dark auricular patch of the American Pipit (Verbeek and Hendricks 1994).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
eBird Occurrence Map
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Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
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SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
In the Bozeman area, normal migration periods are April 20 to May 20 and September 5 to October 22, with a peak around October 1 (Skaar 1969).
In the Beartooth Mountains, nest sites required snow-free areas, tussocks, tilted rocks and eroded areas nearby (Verbeek 1965). Ground inhabiting songbird of generally sparsely vegetated, open habitat (Verbeek and Hendricks 1994).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
American Pipits eat almost entirely arthropods. On the Beartooth Plateau the major groups found in nestling diets, in order of abundance, were Diptera, Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, Homoptera, Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, and Diplopoda (Hendricks 1987).
Mean territory was measured at 1810 square meters. Deer mouse and Long-tailed Weasel were the main predators in the Beartooth Mountains (Verbeek 1970).
Statewide, nesting is from early June to mid-August (Davis 1961, Verbeek 1970, Hendricks 1993). In the Beartooth Mountains eggs were laid mid-June to mid-July, the average clutch was 4.6, survival to fledging was 2 per nest, the incubation period was 14 days, the nestling period was 14 days and independence was at 28 days (Verbeek 1965).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Davis, C.V. 1961. A distributional study of the birds of Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 462 p.
- Hendricks, D. 1993. Clutch- and egg-size variation of American Pipits in alpine environments. Ph.D dissertation. Washington State University, Pullman. 136 pp.
- Hendricks, P. 1987. Habitat use by nesting Water Pipits (Anthus spinoletta): A test of the snowfield hypothesis. Arctic and Alpine Research 19:313-320.
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Robbins, M.B. and B.C. Dale. 1999. Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii). Species Account Number 439. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Verbeek, N.A., and P. Hendricks. 1994. American Pipit (Anthus rubescens). Species Account Number 095. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Verbeek, N.A.M. 1965. Breeding biology, behavior and ecology of the water pipit (Anthus spinoletta). M.S. Thesis, Univ. Montana, Missoula. x + 109 pp.
- Verbeek, N.A.M. 1970. Breeding ecology of the water pipit. Auk 87:425-451.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Bent, A.C. 1950. Life histories of North American wagtails, shrikes, vireos, and their allies. U.S. National Museum Bulletin 197. Washington, D.C.
- Cameron, E. S. 1908. The birds of Custer and Dawson counties, Montana. Auk 25:39-56.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. U.S.D.A. For. Serv. N. Region Publ. R1-93-34. Missoula, Mont.
- Dobkin, D.S. 1994. Conservation and management of neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. Univ. Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho. 220 pp.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Hays, R., R.L. Eng, and C.V. Davis (preparers). 1984. A list of Montana birds. Helena, MT: MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
- Hendricks, P., and C. J. Norment. 1992. Effects of a severe snowstorm on subalpine and alpine populations of nesting American Pipits. Journal of Field Ornithology 63:331-338.
- Hoffmann, R.S. 1960. Summer birds of the Little Belt Mountains, Montana. Missoula, MT: Occasional Papers of Montana State University No. 1. 18 p.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Johnson, R. E. 1966. Alpine birds of the Little Belt Mountains, Montana. Wilson Bulletin 78:225-227.
- Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
- Klaus, M. 1997. Dispersal of Microtus richardsoni in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and Wyoming. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 56 p.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Matthews, W.L. 1981. Broadus-Pumpkin Creek baseline inventory - wildlife. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 83 p.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p.
- Pattie, D.L. and N.A.M. Verbeek. 1966. Alpine birds of the Beartooth Mountains. The Condor 68(2):167-176.
- Richmond, C.W. and F.H. Knowlton. 1894. Birds of south-central Montana. Auk 11:298-308.
- Rundquist, V.M. 1973. Avian ecology on stock ponds in two vegetational types in north-central Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 112 p.
- Saab, V. and C. Groves. 1992. Idaho's migratory landbirds, description, habitats & conservation. Nongame Wildlife Leaflet #10. Idaho Department of Fish and Game, UBLM, USFS, USFWS, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 16 p.
- Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p.
- Saunders, A.A. 1914. The birds of Teton and northern Lewis & Clark counties, Montana. Condor 16:124-144.
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Swan River National Wildlife Refuge. 1982. Birds of the Swan River NWR. Kalispell, MT: NW MT Fish and Wildlife Center pamphlet.
- Thompson, L.S. 1981. Circle West wildlife monitoring study: Third annual report. Technical report No. 8. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Helena, Montana.
- Thunderbird Wildlife Consulting, Inc., Gillette, WY., 2003, Spring Creek Mine 2002 Wildlife Monitoring. March 2003.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- Waldt, R. 1995. The Pine Butte Swamp Preserve bird list. Choteau, MT: The Nature Conservancy. Updated August 1995.
- Watts, C.R. and L.C. Eichhorn. 1981. Changes in the birds of central Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 40:31-40.
- White, C.M., N.J. Van Lanen, D.C. Pavlacky Jr., J.A. Blakesley, R.A. Sparks, J.M.Stenger, J.A. Rehm-Lorber, M.F. McLaren, F. Cardone, J.J. Birek and D.J. Hanni. 2011. Integrated monitoring of bird conservation regions (IMBCR): 2010 Annual Report. Brighton, CO: Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. 387 p.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"