Water Pipit

Water Pipit
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta blakistoni, Lake Poyang, Jiangxi, China, November. (Craig Brelsford)
Comparison of non-breeding Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus with other Shanghai-area pipits. Buff-bellied is mainly greyish-brown above with a poorly streaked mantle, pale lores, and yellowish-pink legs (Panel 1). Water Pipit A. spinoletta blakistoni has brownish-black legs and a smudge on its lores (2). Buff-bellied Pipit (3a) shows much less streaking on mantle and crown than Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus (3b). Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni hodgsoni/yunnanensis (4a) shows two spots on the ear coverts: a whitish spot in the upper rear corner and a black spot below it. Olive-backed Pipit has a supercilium buffish before the eye and white behind it. Buff-bellied Pipit (4b) has unspotted ear coverts and a supercilium buffish or whitish throughout. 1, 3a: sod farm near Pudong Airport (31.112586, 121.824742), Shanghai, October. 2a: Near Wucheng Zhen (吴城镇; 29.180555, 116.010175), Poyang Lake area, Jiangxi, November. 3b: Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, January. 4a: Jiangsu (32.5265, 121.1425), May. 4b: Hengsha Island, Shanghai, November. (Craig Brelsford)

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta breeds Pyrenees to Tianshan in Xinjiang and mountains of Qinghai and Gansu. In China winters south of Yangtze. Race in China is blakistoni. HABITAT Breeds on mountain slopes, usually above timberline; on migration and in winter to sea level, most often around freshwater wetlands. ID & COMPARISON Similar to Rosy Pipit A. roseatus and Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens. Non-breeding grey-brown from forehead to mantle, with faint dark streaks on mantle. Wings brownish-black, with two wingbars; longish tail also brownish-black with white tips and sides of outer tail feathers. Supercilium faint, buff. Malar stripe indistinct. Underparts buff with grey-brown streaking on breast and flanks. Breeding greyer above with pink tinge to nearly unstreaked breast. Supercilium more distinct and may have pinkish hue. Non-breeding Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus has larger, blacker streaks on breast and whiter wing bars and is browner with less distinct streaking above. Breeding japonicus more orange-tinged below than Water Pipit, whose underparts tend more toward pinkish. Breeding Water Pipit also greyer and more streaked above and has more prominent (whitish) supercilium. Rosy Pipit has dark lores and a broken eye-ring, is much more heavily streaked on mantle (all plumages) and underparts (non-breeding), always has pale legs, and in breeding plumage is brighter pink on throat and breast. Meadow Pipit A. pratensis has darker streaking on warmer brown crown and mantle. BARE PARTS Non-breeding bill black above, yellow below, with black tip; breeding bill all black. Feet brownish-black, occasionally pinkish-brown. VOICE Thin tseep, tseep call; sings from boulders and bushes and during display flights. — 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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