Sprague’s Pipit

: An Elusive and Endangered Prairie Bird

Basic Description

Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii) is a small, sparrow-like bird that belongs to the family Motacillidae. Measuring about 15 cm in length and weighing around 20 grams, this bird has sandy brown upperparts with dark streaks and a buff-colored underbelly. It also has long tail feathers that it occasionally pumps up and down while perched on the ground.

Where To Find This Bird

Sprague’s Pipit is native to North America, particularly the Great Plains region of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It breeds in short- to mixed-grass prairies from southern Alberta to North Dakota southward through Montana and Wyoming into Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Sonora (Mexico), Chihuahua (Mexico), Durango (Mexico). During migration and winter months they can be found in grasslands of northeastern Brazil.


This elusive bird prefers open grassland habitats with low-growing vegetation such as shortgrass prairies or mixed-grass prairies with scattered shrubs or boulders. They are often found in areas where cattle graze because their grazing habits create suitable habitat for nesting.


The Sprague’s Pipit feeds mainly on insects such as grasshoppers but will also consume spiders when insect populations are scarce during autumn migration or wintering season.

Cool Facts

Despite its widespread distribution across North America’s great plains region once numbering more than a million individuals its population declined dramatically due largely to habitat loss caused by agricultural conversion since World War II. Today only an estimated few thousand breeding pairs remain across its range making it one of Canada’s most at-risk birds.

Another interesting fact is that male Sprague’s Pipits perform aerial courtship displays, in which they ascend high into the sky while singing and then abruptly descend with their wings stiffly held out. These displays are often accompanied by hovering flights or song-flights over potential nesting sites.

In conclusion, it is important to conserve this bird species by preserving grassland habitats and reducing human activities that harm them. While the Sprague’s Pipit may be elusive and endangered, its presence in North America’s prairies serves as a reminder of the beauty and importance of protecting our natural landscapes.