Rock Pipit/Anthus petrosus - Photographer: Борис Белчев
Rock Pipit/Anthus petrosus - Photographer: Борис Белчев

L 15½-17 cm. Breeds on rocky coasts and islands. Most N European breeders migrate to W European coasts in winter.
IDENTIFICATION: A relatively sturdy pipit with predominantly dark plumage and smudgy markings. Best characters are usually dark legs (sometimes not-so-dark reddish-brown but never pink as e.g. Meadow Pipit) and relatively long, dark bill. Outer tail-feathers pale greyish, not pure white (except sometimes at tip). Supercilium usually indistinct and short. Narrow white eye-ring. Underparts dirty white, often tinged buff; breast and flanks heavily but diffusely streaked dark. Upperparts brown-grey with faint olive tinge, mantle indistinctly dark-streaked. - Variation: Nordic and Russian birds (ssp. littoralis) virtually identical to W European (petrosus) in winter, but some acquire distinctive summer plumage in which underparts tinged pink and dark streaking somewhat reduced. Extreme examples may closely resemble Water Pipit but have greyer mantle and rump area and bold dark malar stripe.
VOICE: Call a sharp, explosive, drawn-out ‘viisst’, usually given singly or repeated less quickly than in Meadow Pipit. Song confusingly similar to Water Pipit’s (and not that unlike Meadow Pipit’s!), series of repeated, sharp, fine notes with three or four theme changes during the song, the full version always delivered in typical climbing and then descending song-flight on rigid wings, ‘zrü-zrü-zrü-zrü-zrü-zre-zre-zre-zre-zre-zre-zre-sui-sui-sui-sui-zri-zrizri...’ or similar. Told from Meadow Pipit’s by slightly sharper, almost ‘electric’ voice and harder and less pure introductory ‘zrü’ series on lower pitch.

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