Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Short-tailed Pipit (Anthus brachyurus)


French: Pipit à queue courte German: Kurzschwanzpieper Spanish: Bisbita colicorto

Anthus brachyurus


, 1850,

upper Umlaas River, near Durban, South Africa


May form a clade with A. caffer and A. sokokensis. Racial differences rather unclear, and correct assignation of population from S Tanzania disputed; proposed race eludens (WC DRCongo) not reliably separable from leggei. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. b. leggei Ogilvie-Grant, 1906 – disjunct populations in E DRCongo, SW Uganda, Rwanda, N Burundi and extreme NW Tanzania; SE Gabon and S Congo through W & S DRCongo to NE Angola and N & C Zambia; and (probably this race) S Tanzania.
  • A. b. brachyurus Sundevall, 1850 – C & S Mozambique (N of Beira, Limpopo floodplain) and E South Africa (Mpumalanga, E Free State and KwaZulu-Natal); possibly E Lesotho.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–12·5 cm; male 15·5–16·7 g, female 13·5–17·2 g. Small pipit with noticeably short tail; has been likened to female of a small bishop (Euplectes... read more


    Song, in flight, a high, rapid, rather grating series of phrases, “tuweehweeh-weeh wheeh... read more


    Short open grassland less than 15 cm in height. Moist, often seasonally inundated grassland... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and their larvae, also grass seeds (Gramineae). Forages on ground. The most terrestrial of the small pipits, inconspicuous and... read more


    Poorly known. Breeds in the rains, in Dec in Angola, Nov–Feb in DRCongo, Nov–Dec in S Tanzania (Iringa highlands) and Sept... read more


    Poorly understood. May be resident in some areas, an altitudinal migrant (in KwaZulu-Natal), a... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally uncommon to frequent throughout most of range, may be more common locally; rare in South Africa, where population estimated at fewer than... read more

    Recommended citation

    Tyler, S. & Motis, A. (2020). Short-tailed Pipit (Anthus brachyurus). 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 18 February 2020).