Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Motacillidae

Scientific Name: Anthus spragueii
Species Authority: (Audubon, 1844)
Common Name(s):
English Sprague's Pipit
Identification information: 16 cm. Well-marked pipit. Heavily streaked mantle, streaked crown contrasting with pale facial area, whitish supercilium and pale buff ear-coverts. Underparts buffish with faint streaking on breast. Pale legs. Similar spp. American Pipit A. rubescens is less streaked (uniform grey above in spring), has dark legs, streaked flanks and closed-faced appearance. Voice Song given in arcing flight, call a loud tweep often given in pairs. A. rubescens gives high disyllabic chip-it or tsee-tseet call. Hints In breeding season, best located when singing. Forms flocks in winter.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bce+3bce+4bce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Grantham, J., Jones, S. & Prescott, D.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Bird, J., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Pople, R., Wege, D.
This species qualifies as Vulnerable owing to a rapid ongoing population decline. The rate of decline in the USA is now not so severe as formerly, but declines may be worsening in Canada.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Anthus spragueii breeds relatively commonly in grasslands of south-east Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, south-west Manitoba and occasionally southern British Columbia, Canada, and north and central Montana, North Dakota, and locally South Dakota, casually to north-west Minnesota, USA (Prescott 1997, Prescott and Davis 1998, Robbins and Dale 1999). It winters throughout southern USA and northern Mexico to Guerrero and Veracruz (Prescott and Davis 1998). The population has declined annually by 3.9% since 1966 (Prescott 1997, Prescott and Davis 1998, D. R. C. Prescott in litt. 1999), but the most significant declines probably occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Robbins and Dale 1999). In the USA, the decline was greatest (7.8% per year) during the 1960s and 1970s, but in Canada, the annual decline rate has slowed to 3.6% since 1980 (Sauer et al. 2007).

Countries occurrence:
Canada; Mexico; United States
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 1040000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 2500
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Rich et al. (2003).

Trend Justification:  This species has undergone a large and statistically significant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (81.4% decline over 40 years, equating to a 34.4% decline per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count [Butcher and Niven 2007]).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits well-drained native grasslands, usually in patches of at least 145 ha (Davis 2004) with density increasing with pasture size (Davis 2004), especially with sparse to intermediate grass densities, moderate litter depths, few visual obstructions and little woody vegetation (Dechant et al. 1999, Robbins and Dale 1999). It also breeds in planted grasslands in some parts of its range, predominantly those with similar vegetation characteristics to native grasslands. In particular, planted fields with a low amount of alfalfa and suitable vegetation height (20–30 cm) are likely suitable breeding sites (Fisher and Davis 2011). On migration, it also occurs in stubble and fallow fields, arriving late April to mid-May on the breeding grounds, and late September to early November on the wintering grounds (Robbins and Dale 1999). Its numbers fluctuate from year to year based on precipitation rates from up to three years previously.

Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 3.7
Movement patterns: Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Conversion of prairie to seeded pasture, hayfields and cropland, and inappropriate grazing are responsible for habitat loss, degradation of remaining grassland and rapid declines in population (Robbins and Dale 1999). Since 1900, c.75% of native Canadian prairies and c.80% of aspen parklands have been converted (Prescott 1997). Strip-mining for tar sands is expected to increase in the future, with up to 300,000 ha of Canada's boreal forest and wetland predicted to be directly affected over the next 30 to 50 years (Wells et al. 2008). Birds may respond to edge to area ratio (Davis 2004) or distance to crops/hay (Koper and Schmiegelow 2006) as much as to area. Linear anthropogenic changes are associated with lowered densities (roads [Sutter et al. 2000], gas wells, pipelines and trails [Linnen et al. 2006]). The large-scale introduction of Eurasian plant species and their subsequent invasion of native prairie have reduced breeding densities (Robbins and Dale 1999). Grazing and burning can have positive or negative impacts on suitable habitat depending on moisture, soil-types, plant species, intensity and frequency (Robbins and Dale 1999). Nests are destroyed by haying prior to the fledging period. Virtual cessation of burning in the breeding zone and intensive grazing in the wintering zone has led to encroachment by shrubs and trees (Robbins and Dale 1999), and the preferred short prairie grass in wintering areas such as Texas is not conserved (J. Grantham in litt. 2003). Brood-parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds Molothrus ater is comparatively low, but is highest in fragmented habitat (Robbins and Dale 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It is listed as Threatened in Canada (COSEWIC 1999). Most habitat is unprotected but there are large areas in military reserves, national parks and on Prairie Farm Rehabilitation lands (Prescott and Davis 1998). These are relatively well protected against conversion to non-native cover. Agriculture censuses have provided some information on land-use trends, and breeding distribution and post-fledging movements are relatively well studied in Canada where monitoring programs and radio-tracking are underway (S. Jones et al. in litt. 2003, Davis and Fisher 2009).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine breeding distribution, centres of winter abundance, population size and decline rates. Monitor habitat conversion rates. Assess threats on wintering grounds. Protect large tracts of native grasslands (Dechant et al. 1999). The size of habitat required is disputed, with a minimum size of 145 ha suggested (S. Jones et al. in litt. 2003). Manage grasslands by removing invasive woody vegetation, and graze to maintain good to excellent range condition. A short burning rotation may be beneficial in more mesic areas or where growing conditions are good, but would have negative consequences in more arid locations/conditions and at sites with unproductive soils (S. Jones et al. in litt. 2003). Delay hayfield mowing until 15 July (if this habitat is found to be important for breeding birds), allowing >70% of nests to fledge. Restore altered upland communities to a natural state (Dechant et al. 1999).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Anthus spragueii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22718591A38592502. . Downloaded on 13 October 2015.
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