Friday, October 5, 2012

Pining for Pipits

By Sara Eisenhauer
Wildlife Services Manager

When we think of migrating songbirds, the more common species may come to mind: American robin, Baltimore oriole, red-winged blackbird. When I think of migratory songbirds, I long to see the American pipit.

An American pipit. Photo by Jacob C. Spendelow (www.tringa.org).

The American Pipit is a small, slender bird of the open country. Pipits breed in the Arctic and alpine tundra, and over-winter in the southernmost parts of the United States into Mexico. In order for some of these birds to reach their summer and winter habitats, they must pass through Vermont. Spring and fall are the times of year to see them.

Here at VINS, I have seen my fair share of wild bird species, but -- until yesterday -- I had never before seen pipits visit the center. As I was walking around the grounds Thursday, I heard a familiar sound coming from our recently plowed meadow. My heart skipped a beat when I realized it was the tell-tale “pip-it” call of the American pipit. During migration, these birds prefer to visit coastal beaches, shorelines, and recently plowed fields searching for insects and seeds. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and a few other fellow bird-nerds, and we watched our rare migratory visitors.

Even though fall will soon turn into winter, it is still a wonderful time of year to see the not-so-common northern birds as they pass through on their journey south. But don’t worry, if you don’t get your pipit fix this fall, they will be on their way back through in spring.

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