Chordates •

Water pipit

(Anthus spinoletta)



The water pipit is 15–17 centimetres (5.9–6.7 in) long and weighs 18.7–23 grams (0.66–0.81 oz).The adult of the nominate race in spring plumage has greyish-brown upperparts,weakly streaked with darker brown,and pale pink-buff underparts fading to whitish on the lower belly.There may be some faint streaking on the breast and flanks.The head is grey with a broad white supercilium.The outer tail feathers are white,and the legs,bill and iris are dark brown or blackish.In non-breeding plumage,the head is grey-brown and the supercilium is less distinct.The upperparts are more streaked,and the underparts are white,marked lightly with brown on the breast and flanks.The sexes are similar although the female has,on average,a greyer head.Young birds resembles the non-breeding adult,but are browner and more streaked above with prominent streaking on the underparts.A.s.coutellii is smaller than the nominate subspecies and the white of the outer tail feathers has a hint of grey.It is paler and more heavily streaked above,and in summer plumage the underparts' colour covers a larger area and has a rusty tint.A.s.blakistoni is large,pale and less strongly streaked.The water pipit has a complete moult between July and September,although there is considerable individual variation in timing.There is a partial pre-breeding moult,mainly between January and March,but with much variability in timing.This moult typically involves replacing the head,body and some wing feathers,but the extent is again variable.Very occasionally,females may moult into what looks like non-breeding plumage,rather than the expected brighter garb.The chicks start to gain juvenile plumage as soon as a month after hatching,and most have completed the transition to near-adult appearance by September.The first pre-breeding moult is similar to that of the adult,but may be less complete or even absent.The water pipit is closely related to the Eurasian rock pipit and the meadow pipit,and is rather similar to both in appearance.Compared to the meadow pipit,the water pipit is longer-winged and longer-tailed than its relative,and has much paler underparts.It has dark,rather than pinkish-red,legs.The water pipit in winter plumage is also confusable with the Eurasian rock pipit,but has a strong supercilium,greyer upperparts,and white,not grey,outer tail feathers;it is also typically much warier.The habitats used by Eurasian rock and water pipits are completely separate in the breeding season,and there is little overlap even when birds are not nesting.There is also little mixing with breeding meadow pipits,although since 1960 some overlapping territories have been found where the species coexist.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Aves
News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day