Nondescript ‘little brown job’
It’s back to the “love them or hate them” little brown jobs this week ... the pipits in particular.
The pipits are a group of birds that are somewhat related to wagtails. Most of them occur in open, grassy areas, and they behave like wagtails in that they have a similar dipping, flitting flight pattern, and they walk or run along the ground, stopping to pick up their insect food.
Many of them have markings in common, such as a face pattern or streaking on the chest, all of which are similar, and understandably confusing!
Another way which one can separate or at least narrow down which pipit you are looking at, is the colour of the lower mandible. Some are a pink or fleshy colour and others have an orange lower mandible, although those aren’t always a 100% reliable feature.
This brings us to our bird of the week ... a bird that is probably one of our most nondescript species in the area – the plain-backed pipit. Unlike many other pipit species, the plain-backed has hardly any markings on its face, chest or back. Although they are your typical little brown job, the “brown” is generally quite a bit greyer in tone than the tawny and buff hues of their cousins. The lower mandible is orange.
I have found plain-backed pipits in open grassland, but usually where the grass is shorter. Their simple, two-note song is often heard where they dwell. It is a chirping “tree ... chilip”, which you can hear at This call is uttered from a low bush, an ant hill or a fence post, or from a display flight.
That’s it for this week, folks. Please remember I am available for local birdwatching tours. For more information, call 072-314-0069. Until next time, take up the challenge and sort out those little brown jobs!