Bird Database

American Pipit

(Anthus rubescens)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Climate change, Pesticides

Conservation Actions

More data are needed on population trends and magnitudes of threats

American Pipit

(Anthus rubescens)

The Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains already has several superlatives under to its name: highest point in the Northeast, worst weather in the world, and so forth. Add to these an ornithological one: southernmost nesting site for the American Pipit east of the Rocky Mountains. Plenty of other northern species reach their southern limits in the Granite State, including other mountain denizens like Canada Jay and Spruce Grouse, but the pipit is a little more special. It’s normal habitat of arctic and alpine tundra is extremely rare in the east, and in fact found in only three areas: the White Mountains, Mount Katahdin (Maine), and the Chic Choks of the Gaspe Peninsula (Quebec).

Pipits have been reported from the Presidentials since at least the 1930s, but it wasn’t until 1991 that breeding was confirmed with the discovery of a nest, and roughly a dozen pairs have been documented since then during periodic surveys. Although there have been occasional reports from Franconia Ridge or other peaks in the Presidentials, only Mount Washington sees consistent use, and even then, pipits only use a small portion of available alpine tundra. This renders them vulnerable to habitat changes associated with climate change and disturbance from off-trail hikers or other human intrusions. During the brief breeding season from June to early August, visitors to the alpine zone may be rewarded with the pipit’s flight display. This can last up to 30 seconds and involves the male rising over 100 feet in the air and coming down again, all while continuously singing his faint twittery song.

While only a handful of pipits breed in New Hampshire, hundreds if not thousands migrate through each year to and from the much higher populations in Newfoundland and the Canadia Arctic. Lucky observers may see some of these transients at barren mountaintops, but it is far easier to find them in open country at low elevation. Migrant pipits congregate, often in flocks of dozens or more, in a variety of grassy or poorly vegetated habitats, including agricultural fields, beaches and mudflats, and any large areas with short grass (golf courses, playing fields, airports, etc.). During this time, they often associate with other tundra-breeding birds such as Snow Buntings and Horned Larks, all of which act like tiny shorebirds as they walk along picking food from the ground.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

American Pipit
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count