Non­de­script ‘lit­tle brown job’

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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!

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