Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)


French: Pipit spioncelle German: Bergpieper Spanish: Bisbita alpino

Alauda Spinoletta


, 1758,



Until comparatively recently treated as conspecific with A. petrosus and A. rubescens. Preliminary genetic analysis and some differences in plumage and flight calls suggest that all three races might eventually be treated at species level#R#R. Birds from NW Caucasus sometimes treated as race caucasicus, but inseparable from coutellii. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. s. spinoletta (Linnaeus, 1758) – Western Water Pipit – mountains of C & S Europe; winters W & S Europe and NW Africa.
  • A. s. coutellii Audouin, 1826 – #RCaucasian Water Pipit – N, S & E Turkey, Caucasus and mountains of N Iran and Turkmenistan (Kopet Dag); winters in neighbouring lowlands and S to NE Africa and Arabia.
  • A. s. blakistoni Swinhoe, 1863 – Eastern Water Pipit – mountains of S Russia (E to Transbaikalia), Mongolia, E Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, NE Afghanistan and NW & C China (W Xinjiang, Qinghai); winters in Pakistan, NW India and S & SE China.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17 cm; 18·7–23 g. Nominate race in breeding plumage has mid-grey to brownish-grey forehead to nape and ear-coverts, contrasting broad whitish... read more


    Song, from perch or in flight, a rattling and tinkling series of 4–5 segments, each of one... read more


    Breeds on alpine pastures and high-lying mountain meadows with short grassland and scattered rocks... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates; some plant material. In W Europe prey includes springtails (Collembola), stoneflies (Plecoptera), crickets and grasshoppers... read more


    Lays end Apr to early Jul in Europe; sometimes double-brooded. Mainly monogamous, occasionally polygynous or polyandrous. In song flight,... read more


    Predominantly a short-distance or altitudinal migrant; regular migration from high mountains down... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common to fairly common. Patchy distribution in Europe due to altitudinal and habitat requirements, resulting in small... read more

    Recommended citation

    Tyler, S. (2020). Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta). 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 25 February 2020).