The Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii) is a difficult bird to find and is becoming more so with loss of its native habitat. With the restricted breeding range and its unassuming appearance, the Sprague’s Pipit is poorly known.
Photo Used with permission from Steve Collins, Odephoto
Sprague’s Pipit passes through Illinois each year, but in small numbers (Illinois Records of Sprague’s Pipit). Birders have an easier chance of seeing this bird at the following important breeding sites:
- Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Govenlock-Nashlyn-Battle Creek Grasslands Important Bird Area, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Canadian Forces Base Suffield National Wildlife Area, Alberta, Canada
- Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, Montana
- Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Montana
- Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota
- Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota
- Little Missouri National Grassland, North Dakota
Or at these wintering sites:
- Attwater Prairie-chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
- Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
- Mid-coast National Wildlife Complex Important Bird Areas, Texas
- Saltillo Grasslands Protected Area, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
- Janos-Nuevos Casas Grandes Important Bird Area, Chihuahua, Mexico
Sprague’s Pipit Conservation
Currently there is no range-wide conservation plan but some efforts are in place to add mix-grass prairie acreage to current protected areas. For example, Grasslands National Park is expected to increase in size to 226,500 acres, nearly twice what it is currently.
The Prairie Pothole Joint Venture is working to conserve habitat in a 5.5 million acre area around Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota. Called the Chase Lake Prairie Project, the area is set to protect one of the largest intact native prairies in the state.
The conservation needs of Sprague’s Pipit, according to the Birder’s Conservation Handbook, include:
- Develop a range-wide conservation plan
- Incorporate habitat objectives into public land management
- Provide incentives for private land owners to manage their lands to the benefit of Sprague’s Pipit and other native grassland species
- Purchase land or conservation easements on private lands that still support healthy populations of Sprague’s Pipit
- Increase monitoring and life history research, especially on wintering grounds and during migration (something a citizen science project could acheive
As of 2004, the Sprague’s Pipit population was estimated at 870,000 and Breeding Bird Survey analysis shows a sharp decline. We as birders care about this species as we care about birds in general, but how do we convince land owners, politicians, and concerned citizens to care about a discreet bird of the sparsely populated prairie lands?
Read about the Sprague’s Pipit and 99 other birds in need of conservation in The Birder’s Conservation Handbook.