Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Plain-backed Pipit (Anthus leucophrys)


French: Pipit à dos uni German: Braunrückenpieper Spanish: Bisbita liso

Anthus leucophrys


, 1818,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Races goodsoni and saphiroi treated in A. vaalensis in HBW following one review#R, but most evidence supports their inclusion here#R#R. Variation partially clinal, with races intergrading from W to E; ansorgei also intergrades with zenkeri in Guinea-Bissau. Other described races are prunus (Angola), merged with bohndorffi, turneri (NW Kenya), synonymized with zenkeri, and enunciator (Swaziland), merged with nominate. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. l. ansorgei C. M. N. White, 1948 – extreme S Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.
  • A. l. saphiroi Neumann, 1906 – SE Ethiopia and NW Somalia.
  • A. l. zenkeri Neumann, 1906 – Guinea and S Mali E to Ghana, thence E to S Chad, Central African Republic and S Sudan, and S to Cameroon, N & E DRCongo, Burundi, NW Tanzania and W Kenya.
  • A. l. goodsoni R. Meinertzhagen, 1920 – C & SW Kenya and extreme N Tanzania.
  • A. l. gouldii Fraser, 1843 – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.
  • A. l. omoensis Neumann, 1906 – SE Sudan, E South Sudan, Eritrea, and N, C & W Ethiopia.
  • A. l. bohndorffi Neumann, 1906 – SE Gabon, C Congo, and S DRCongo E to W Tanzania and S to C Angola, N Zambia and N Malawi (R Songwe).
  • A. l. tephridorsus Clancey, 1967 – S Angola and S Zambia S to N Namibia, NW Botswana and NW Zimbabwe.
  • A. l. leucophrys Vieillot, 1818 – SE Botswana E to extreme S Mozambique, S to E & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17 cm; 21–32 g. Nominate race has buffy supercilium, brown lores and ear-coverts, latter mottled buffish, dark eyestripe and moustachial stripe, faint dark... read more


    Song, from ground or perch, an unstructured monotonous series of well-spaced phrases, “ chwee-... read more


    Savanna with scattered trees and bushes in better-wooded areas, open grassland with scattered... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and their larvae, especially caterpillars (Lepidoptera) and grasshoppers (Orthoptera); also seeds. In stomach contents from S... read more


    Breeds mainly during rains: Apr–Jun in Senegambia, Jan–May in Sierra Leone, Feb–Jun in Ghana, juvenile in Jul in Burkina... read more


    Little known; some populations believed to be sedentary, with others making altitudinal or nomadic... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to locally common. Fairly catholic in its choice of habitats, and unlikely to be at any risk in the long term. Clearing of land for... read more

    Recommended citation

    Tyler, S. (2020). Plain-backed Pipit (Anthus leucophrys). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 23 February 2020).