In summer and fall, the American Pipit is linked to harsh, treeless environments: it only breeds in the alpine and arctic tundra. The alpine meadows it inhabits run along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, extending as far south as Colorado. Although this region is covered by snow and ice for most of the year, several species of birds have adapted to this habitat alone. Many American Pipits arrive on their breeding territories already paired up-courtship and pair formation often occur at lower elevations-which is thought to save valuable time in a place with a very brief summer. The pipit bobs its short tail continuously as it forages.
I.D.: Sexes similar: faintly streaked, gray-brown upperparts; lightly streaked 'necklace' on the upper breast; streaked breast and flanks; black legs; black tail with white outer tail feathers; buff-colored underparts; slim body.
Size: L 6-7 in. (15-18 cm).
Range: common migrant and breeder throughout the Rockies.
Habitat: alpine tundra and wet alpine meadows.
Nesting: in a shallow depression; small cup nest is made with coarse grass and sedges, and is sometimes lined with fur; frequently has an overhanging canopy; female incubates 4-5 eggs for 13-15 days.
Feeding: gleans the ground and vegetation for terrestrial and freshwater invertebrates and seeds.
Voice: familiar flight call is pip-it pip-it. Male: harsh, sharp tsip-tsip or chiwee.
Similar Species: Horned Lark: black horns and facial markings. Brewer's Sparrow: unstreaked breast; conical bill; stout body.