|Nominate subspecies in Oregon, USA|
The Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens), or American Pipit as it is known in North America, is a small songbird found on both sides of the northern Pacific. It was first described by Marmaduke Tunstall in his 1771 Ornithologia Britannica. It was formerly classified as a form of the Water Pipit.
Like most other pipits, the Buff-bellied Pipit is an undistinguished-looking species which usually can be seen to run around on the ground. The American Pipit has lightly streaked grey-brown upperparts and is diffusely streaked below on the buff breast and flanks. The belly is whitish, the bill and legs are dark. The Japanese Pipit is darker above and has bolder black streaking on its whiter underparts; its legs have a reddish hue. The call is a squeaky sip.
- A. r. rubescens (Tunstall, 1771), American Pipit – breeds in northern North America, extending further south in mountainous areas
- A. r. japonicus, Japanese Pipit or Siberian Pipit – breeds in most of eastern temperate Asia (including Japan)
This species is closely related to Eurasian Rock Pipit (A. petrosus) and Water Pipit (A. spinoletta), all three forms having previously been considered conspecific. They can differentiated by their vocalizations and some visual cues, but Rock and Buff-bellied Pipit are not found sympatrically except as vagrant individuals, and the ranges of Buff-bellied and Water Pipits overlap only in a small area in Central Asia.
Both subspecies of the Buff-bellied Pipit are migratory. The Buff-bellied Pipit winters on the Pacific coast of North America, and on the Atlantic coast from the southern North America to Central America. At least regarding the Buff-bellied Pipit, its wintering range seems to have expanded northwards in the 20th century and the birds seem to spend less time in winter quarters: in northern Ohio, for example, the species was recorded as "not common" during migration in May and September/October in the 1900s (decade), but today it is considered a "widespread migrant" in that region, found between March and May and from late September to November, with many birds actually wintering this far north. Asian birds winter mainly from Pakistan east to and Southeast Asia, with occasional birds found as far north as Yunnan and some in Japan apparently being all-year residents or migrating but a little. The American and Asian subspecies are rare vagrants to Western and Eastern Europe, respectively.
Like its relatives, this species is insectivorous. The breeding habitat of Buff-bellied Pipit is tundra, but outside the breeding season it is found in open lightly vegetated areas, similar to those favoured by the Water Pipit (A. spinoletta).
Reproduction: from pairing to fledging
The first thing Buff-bellied pipits do when they arrive on the breeding site, during snowmelt, is pairing. Indeed, males will start to fight one on one to win over the female and pair with it during the entire breeding season. They also fight for the snow-free sites that would be better for nesting. The moment is also very important because the melting snow implies an increase in arthropods abundance, which constitutes the main food source for these birds. After the fight and the pairing, nesting is the next step. Nests are most often found on the ground in dry or wet meadows, always with a helpful protection, but they are never placed in shrubs or trees. The composition of the ideal nest depends on whatever is around the nesting area, but it is usually made of sedge, remains or new fine grass, and sometimes some horse hairs. The final issue American pipits have to deal with is nest success. The nest is indeed the target for numerous predators such as ants or hawks. If this step is successful, an egg can be produced. The female will not lay an egg if the conditions, such as temperature and nesting site, are not optimal. If the first attempt fails, her time to lay an egg is reduced. In general, American pipits continuously lay eggs over a period of 4 to 5 days after snow-melt (in April–May) to mid-July. After this period, the male testes decrease in size and the female refuses any copulation. In general, the clutch size is 5 eggs but it can vary according to snowfalls, the parents’ reproductive ability and predation. Eggs are incubated for 13–14 days  During this time, the female does not leave the nest, but is still very reactive to any movement around its habitat. It communicates by singing to the male that brings her food and defends its territory. Four or five days after hatching, the young is skinny, blue-gray in color and only has its secondary feathers. For a week, the female will brood its clutch but both parents will feed them. After these 7 days, the birds are ready for fledging but they will still be fed by their parents 14 days after their departure. Finally, immature birds will form little flocks with other immature birds and wander off.
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- Tunstall, Marmaduke (1771): Ornithologia Britannica: seu Avium omnium Britannicarum tam terrestrium, quam aquaticarum catalogus, sermone Latino, Anglico et Gallico redditus. J. Dixwell. London. [in Latin]
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- Nazarenko, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (1978). "О видовой самостоятельности голоценового конька – Anthus rubescens (Tunstall) Aves, Motacillidae" [On species validity of Anthus rubescens (Tunstall) Aves: Motacillidae]. Biulleten Moskovskogo obshchestva ispytatelei prirody. Otdel biologicheskii 57 (11): 1743–1744.
- Leonovich, V.V; Deminia, G.V. & Veprintseva, O.D. (1997). "On the taxonomy and phylogeny of pipits (Genus Anthus, Motacillidae, Aves) in Eurasia". Biulleten Moskovskogo obshchestva ispytatelei prirody. Otdel biologicheskii 102 (2): 14–22.
- Henninger, W.F. (1906). "A preliminary list of the birds of Seneca County, Ohio". Wilson Bull. 18 (2): 47–60.
- Bangs, Outram (1932). "Birds of western China obtained by the Kelley-Roosevelts expedition". Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Zool. Ser. 18 (11): 343–379.
- Ohio Ornithological Society (2004): Annotated Ohio state checklist.
- Norment, C.J. and Green , K. (2004). "Breeding ecology of Richard's pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae) in the snowy mountains". Emu 104 (4): 327–336. doi:10.1071/MU04006.
- Pickwell, G. (1947). "The American Pipit in Its Arctic-Alpine Home". The Auk 64 (1): 1–14. doi:10.2307/4080059.
- Hendricks, P. (2003). "Spring snow conditions, laying date, and clutch size in an alpine population of American pipits". J Field Ornithol. 74 (4): 423–429. doi:10.1648/0273-8570-74.4.423.
- Verbeek, N. A. and P. Hendricks. (1994). American Pipit (Anthus rubescens), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
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