Upland Pipit

upland pipit
山鹨 (shān liù)
Anthus sylvanus
18 cm

The upland pipit is a large, stocky pipit of grassy mountain slopes. Ranges from Afghanistan across the Himalayas to China, where it is resident from Sichuan and Yunnan east to Zhejiang and Hong Kong. Breeds to 3000 m, as low as 500 m in Hong Kong, on mountainsides with scattered boulders, bushes, and trees. At first glance, similar to Richard’s, paddyfield, and Blyth’s pipit, but those three species rarely occur on grassy slopes (except in Hong Kong, where Richard’s and upland breed together) and have a slimmer, less compact build. Upland has underparts buffish to whitish, with a different underside pattern from Richard’s, paddyfield, and Blyth’s; in upland, blackish streaks are prominent on sides of breast and flanks and less prominent on center of breast; the other three species have unstreaked flanks and more uniform patterning across the breast. Crown and mantle brown with heavier streaking than in Richard’s, paddyfield, and Blyth’s; streaking continues down back and rump to uppertail coverts. Wingbars indistinct or absent in upland, present in other three species. Has prominent white supercilium and brown ear coverts and a buff submoustachial stripe between black moustachial and malar stripes. Bill black above, pink below, noticeably shorter and heavier than Richard’s, paddyfield, and Blyth’s; pink legs shorter; hind claw also shorter. Very unpipit-like song much like “teacher, teacher” of Far Eastern great tit. Calls rarely, with chirping sound reminiscent of a sparrow. — Craig Brelsford


shanghaibirding.com has research on all 21 species in the family Motacillidae in China. Click any link below:

Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Eastern Yellow Wagtail M. tschutschensis
Citrine Wagtail M. citreola
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea
White Wagtail M. alba
Japanese Wagtail M. grandis
White-browed Wagtail M. maderaspatensis
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi
Paddyfield Pipit A. rufulus
Blyth’s Pipit A. godlewskii
Tawny Pipit A. campestris
Meadow Pipit A. pratensis
Tree Pipit A. trivialis
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni
Pechora Pipit A. gustavi
Rosy Pipit A. roseatus
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens
Water Pipit A. spinoletta
Upland Pipit A. sylvanus


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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