WatchList Species Account for Sprague’s Pipit
(Anthus spraqueii)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © Bill Schmoker
Photo: Bill Schmoker

Sprague’s Pipit is an endemic breeding species of the grasslands of the Prairie Provinces, Montana, the Dakotas, and northwestern Minnesota. In winter it is found primarily in the south-central states and into central and southern Mexico. Detectable on its breeding grounds primarily through the male’s prolonged flight displays—the longest such displays of any bird species—it goes primarily undetected during migration through the Great Plains and virually nothing is known of it on its wintering grounds. Formerly more widespread and numerous during early settlement, it has declined dramatically as the prairie disappeared due to overgrazing, cultivation, and the introduction and invasion of non-native plants. Greater pipit densities are correlated with native grasses.


Overgrazing and consequent encroachment of woody vegetation has reduced habitat on its U.S. wintering grounds. Prescribed fire is used to control woody vegetation both on the breeding and U.S. wintering grounds, and moderate to heavy grazing, at least in the tallgrass and mixed-grass portion of its range, may be beneficial to the bird. Drought can be a significant factor in determining its numbers. Conservation of the bird depends on the protection of native grassland and the control of non-native plants and inclursion by woody vegetation.