Long-tailed pipit (Anthus longicaudatus)

GenusAnthus (1)
SizeLength: 15 – 16 cm (2)
Weight30.2 – 34 g (2)

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

The long-tailed pipit was described to science as recently as 1996, and remains very poorly known (2). A rather indistinct bird, the long-tailed pipit has darkish grey-brown plumage on the upperparts, with pale edges to the feathers, and brownish to brownish-white underparts. The wing feathers are dark brown with pale edgings and the tail is also dark brown. A broad whitish stripe extends above the eye, like an eyebrow, while a dark stripe runs through each dark brown eye. The bill is a darkish horn colour, as are the legs (2).

The long-tailed pipit is known to occur in the Kimberley area of South Africa. It is thought to breed further north, on the Barotse floodplains in Zimbabwe (2) (3), but it has also been recorded from Zambia and Botswana (3).

The breeding habitat of the long-tailed pipit is not known, but in its non-breeding area in South Africa it occurs on short, dry grassland including urban parks and playing fields (2).

The long-tailed pipit has been observed in flocks of 10 to 40 individuals, often with the buffy pipit (Anthus vaalensis), Richard’s pipit (Anthus richardi) and the long-billed pipit (Anthus similis). The long-tailed pipit can be distinguished from these closely-related birds by its exaggerated tail-wagging and horizontal rather than upright posture (2).

Nothing is known about the breeding biology of the long-tailed pipit, although it is presumed to breed in Zimbabwe before migrating to South Africa for the winter. It forages in grass for food, but what this bird feeds on is not known (2).

It is not known whether this species is threatened, and if it is, to what extent, and thus the IUCN have classified it as Data Deficient (1).

Further research into this little-known bird is clearly needed. Surveys to clarify its breeding range and non-breeding range would help determine the status of the long-tailed pipit and whether it is threatened (3).

For further information on the long-tailed pipit see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Volume 9. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (May, 2008)