TREE PIPIT (Anthus trivialis)

FAMILY: MOTACILLIDAE (Wagtails, Longclaws, and Pipits)

A summer visitor to UK woodlands the tree pipit arrives in April and can be seen performing its impressive parachuting flight display in forest edges and clearings. Males will rise straight upwards from the tree tops while singing loudly, change pitch, and spiral back towards the tree. During the summer months, they are found throughout England, Scotland, and Wales but are absent from the island of Ireland. This species has undergone severe declines in England and Wales but these changes have been offset by increases in Scotland.

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Alert Status:

Red - 70% decline ↓

Estimated number of UK breeding

pairs: 105,000 (updated 2016)

Listen to Tree Pipit song:


Tree pipits have sandy brown upperparts with dark streaks running down it, especially visible on the upper back. Its breast is buff with dark brown/black streaks while its belly is white with no clear streaking. They look very similar to meadow pipits but they have shorter hind claws and less clear streaking. The most effective way to tell pipits apart is by their calls with the meadow pipit giving a buzzy ‘spihz’ call.

Average Length: 14.5 cm

Average Lifespan: 2 Years

Average Wingspan: 22-25 cm

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Tree Pipit diet

Tree Pipits mainly feed on invertebrates such as spiders but they will supplement their diet with fruit and seeds during the winter.

Tree Pipit breeding and nesting information

Tree pipits begin breeding at the end of April. They are monogamous and the female builds a cup-shaped nest in a depression in the ground hidden amongst vegetation. 4 to 5 eggs are laid in the nest and incubated by the female alone for around 13 days. After hatching the chicks are fed by both parents for around 12 to 14 days until they fledge. They will often produce two broods before the breeding season ends in August.

Threats to Tree Pipit

Declines in the species have been attributed to changes in its preferred habitat. While plantations provide important habitats, tree pipits require varied ages of trees which are not provided by plantation woodlands. Tree pipits prefer mosaic woodlands with clearings and edge habitats that many plantations don’t provide. In upland areas decreases are thought to be caused by overgrazing and lack of woodland management. The potential for declines caused by climate-driven droughts in their wintering grounds in Africa cannot be ruled out and may cause further declines in the future.

How you can help

Petition local areas to protect and effectively manage woodland habitats.

Be careful not to disturb active ground nests while walking in woodlands.

Keep dogs on leads while walking in woodlands.

Fascinating Fact

Tree Pipit nests are commonly used by cuckoos, who lay their eggs in the nest, forcing the pipit parents to raise them. The production of two broods each year helps the pipit counteract this.
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Anthus trivialis. Downloaded from Accessed: 05/10/2023.

British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Tree Pipit | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: Accessed: 05/10/2023.  

Burton, N. H. K. (2007). Influences of restock age and habitat patchiness on Tree Pipits Anthus trivialis breeding in Breckland pine plantations. Ibis, 149(S2), 193–204.  

Kumstátová, T., Brinke, T., Tomková, S., Fuchs, R., & Petrusek, A. (2004). Habitat preferences of tree pipit (Anthus trivialis) and meadow pipit (A. pratensis) at sympatric and allopatric localities. Journal of Ornithology, 145(4), 334–342.  

Moga, C. I., Hartel, T., & Öllerer, K. (2009). Ancient oak wood-pasture as a habitat for the endangered tree pipit Anthus trivialis. Biologia, 64(5), 1011–1015.  

Petrusková, T., Osiejuk, T. S., & Petrusek, A. (2010). Geographic variation in songs of the tree pipit (Anthus trivialis) at two spatial scales. The Auk, 127(2): 274-282.  

RSPB (2023) Meadow pipit bird facts: Anthus pratensis, The RSPB. Available at: Accessed: 05/10/2023

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