Pipit ID Challenge

Aberrant Meadow

by Rune Sø Neergaard

Rune is an Administrator on Netfugl, blogger on BirdingNJ and member of the Danish Rarities Committee.


This pipit was photographed at Bøjden Nor on the island of Funen, Denmark on the 5th of April by local birder Klaus Schak Laursen.


It has created some debate in Denmark and Scandinavian Rock Pipit (littoralis which is the only race known to occur in Denmark), Water Pipit, Meadow Pipit and even Red-throated Pipit have all been mentioned.

It though seems that consensus now is that the bird is an aberrant Meadow Pipit. What seems to rule out both Rock Pipit and Water Pipit is the very distinct streaking to the crown, mantle and also the pattern of the streaking to the underparts.


Although rather similar aberrant Meadow Pipits have been described previously (e.g. Birding World vol. 18 no. 4, 2005) the dark legs and bill, the orangey/yellowish throat and upper breast, the very large white supercilium and the greyish ear coverts, neck and scapulars makes this bird very deviant.

Comments on the ID are of course very much appreciated as are links to other similar aberrant Meadow Pipits.

Best wishes,

Rune Sø Neergaard, Aalborg, Denmark


9 thoughts on “Pipit ID Challenge

  1. John Furse

    My initial thought, on seeing the topmost photo, was Rosy Pipit (Anthus roseatus), which I’ve seen in Sichuan, China. I have not done a feather-by-feather comparison, but leave this as a ‘starter for 10’.

  2. tony disley

    It does look like it could be a Water Pipit x Meadow Pipit but probably outrageous aberrant Meadow Pipit, the upperpart mantle streaking is very odd too, doesn’t match the pattern exactly of either species, weird but smart bird!

  3. Rune Sø Neergaard

    Hi Tony

    Could you please elaborate on why you don’t think the mantle streaking fits Meadow Pipit?

    Regarding the the swiss pipit I really don’t see why this bird should be anything than a Meadow Pipit. Such birds with a warm yellowish/pinkish tone to the breast I see reguarly in Denmark during the spring.

    Does anybody know of any proven interbreeding between Meadow Pipit and either Rock Pipit or Water Pipit? If this is not the case, I think it seems like an unlikely theory.

    Best wishes, Rune

  4. Simon Mitchell

    Like John, my initial reaction to this bird was how much like a Rosy Pipit it looked, and since some populations of Rosy are highly migratory and have breeding distributions not too dissimilar from Chestnut-eared Bunting, Pale-legged Leaf-warbler etc I think it’s worth while eliminating it – at least as a thought excercise!
    From what I could glean from a pretty extensive internet search it seems that adult breeding plumage Rosy Pipits (which this bird appear ostensibly similar to), often have dirty yellowish fringes on the 1 – 2 outermost median coverts, and in a tone that contrasts from both the pinkish breast hue and the whiter fringes on the more inner median coverts. However, I can’t discern if this is a this is an age-related trait; since immature birds are far yellower in overall tone it may just be that these are retained coverts.
    The mantle on Rosy Pipit also seems to look consistently different to this, with the dark streaks being at least as blackish as those on the breast. This is also a difficult one to gauge because again there is a lot of age-related variation. However, in most adult-type plumages the norm seems to be sparse but fine blackish streaking down the mantle, with two very broad buffy ‘tramlines’ running between them, which is a pretty different impression than this bird. For a reference here’s a pretty good mantle shot of an adult.


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