pipit, common name for a group of chiefly Eurasian and African birds that together with the wagtails constitute a subfamily of songbirds related to the Old World warblers and thrushes. Pipits are trim, slender birds with thin, pointed bills. They are chiefly terrestrial and walk or run rapidly, catching insects on or near the ground. The pipit's plumage is streaked and mottled brown; the wagtail's is more boldly patterned. Pipits resemble larks and are sometimes called field larks, or titlarks. The few American species include the water, or rock, pipit, Anthus spinoletta, which breeds in the Arctic and winters in the E United States, and the Sprague's pipit of the Great Plains, noted for the spectacular courtship flight and song of the male. The African longclaw has elongated hind toes suited to running over the veldt. The wagtails, members of the same family, are named for their habit of bobbing their tails, and are usually found near water in temperate Eurasia and Africa; the only New World species is the yellow wagtail of the northern tundra. Pipits and wagtails are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Motacillidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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