American Pipits and Fall Migration

An American Pipit in nonbreeding plumage, Farmington Bay WMA, Davis County, UtahAn American Pipit in nonbreeding plumage – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I don’t locate birds to photograph just using my eyesight, I also locate them by using my ears and listening for calls and songs. One of the calls I have only heard a few times this fall are those of American Pipits in flight but I do expect to hear more of them soon.

I wanted to mention that I don’t know if the pipit above is an adult or an immature bird, they all look alike at this time of the year.

American Pipit perched in a high rock, Farmington Bay WMA, Davis County, UtahAmerican Pipit perched in a high rock – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

By this time last fall I had already been photographing these birds for a period of more than two weeks but we had colder weather sooner last year than we have had this year at this time. This morning it is raining in the valley and I can see on satellite images that snow is falling in the Wasatch Mountains, can the large flocks of American Pipits be far behind?  The remnants of Hurricane Rosa brought us much needed rain and the cold front that is moving through here right now may be just the push that the pipits need to arrive in large numbers here in the valley.

American Pipit taking a step on the rocks, Farmington Bay WMA, Davis County, UtahAmerican Pipit taking a step on the rocks – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

All of these American Pipits were photographed exactly one year ago today at Farmington Bay WMA. By this date last year I was seeing and hearing pipits at Farmington Bay WMA, Bear River MBR, along other shorelines of the Great Salt Lake and next to the causeway to Antelope Island State Park by the hundreds. I could also hear them while driving on the interstate and back roads when I had my windows down.

American Pipit about to fluff its feathers, Farmington Bay WMA, Davis County, UtahAmerican Pipit about to fluff its feathers – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

American Pipits aren’t flashy birds, in fact some people might think they are rather plain or dull colored, but I am always happy to have them in my viewfinder and to hear their flight calls in the breeze. Maybe the next time I go out into the field I will see, hear and photograph them.

Life is good.


American Pipit facts and information:

  • American Pipits are medium sized songbirds that have brown backs, brown stripes on their chests, white outer feathers on their tails, thin beaks and a pale line over their eyes. They bounce their tails up and down quite often.
  • American Pipits are migratory.
  • American Pipits during the breeding season can be found in alpine and arctic tundra and during migration they prefer mudflats, plowed fields, marshes, coastal beaches and rivers.
  • American Pipits eat insects and seeds.
  • American Pipits lay 3 to 7 eggs which hatch in 13 to 15 days. The female incubates and raises the young, they are monogamous.
  • American Pipits have also been called “Water Pipits” and “Buff-bellied Pipits”.


  1. Margot Rawlins October 9, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Sometimes you post audio files of the bird and since you specifically mentioned the flight call, I wish you had posted the call here. I used Merlin to try to hear it, but don’t know which call you are referring to.

  2. Pepe Forte October 7, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    Great series Mia. I love every pic. The Pipit is wonderful but I am also intrigued by the texture of the rocks. And, of course, your narrative is terrific. Thanks.

  3. Patty Chadwick October 5, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    These birds are sleek nd hsndsome, but what I like bestvabout them is their name…it’s fun to say and for some reason seems to fit..

  4. Elephants Child October 5, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Such a subtle charmer. But a charmer just the same.

  5. humming bird lover October 5, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Hi sweetie! I love your little bird and enjoy your tell all about the birds info! love mom

  6. Bob Herbenick October 5, 2018 at 7:18 am

    I really enjoy viewing your photos and descriptions. I used to carve songbirds and water foul and I am learning a great deal from your articles; especially learning that I don’t know much. You photos are very professional and I look forward to your emails. Sincerely, Bob

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