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African Pipit - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Grassland Pipit; Grassveld Pipit
Includes: Cameroon Pipit; Jackson's Pipit

Subspecies rufuloides. Photo by Leon
Potchefstroom, South Africa, June 2004
Anthus cinnamomeus


15 to 17 cm. The "standard" pipit across much of Africa.

  • Buff-brown streaky upperparts
  • White or pale buff underparts
  • Streaked breast
  • Unstreaked belly and flanks
  • Boldly patterned face; pale eyestripe, dark malar stripe
  • Whitish outer tail-feathers
  • Long pink legs
  • Slender dark bill with a yellowish base to the lower mandible

Juvenile birds have a blotched breast, scalloping on the upperparts and some streaking on the flanks.

Similar Species

Long-billed Pipit and Nicholson's Pipit, which both have buff outer tail and different sounding calls. From plainer backed pipits such as Plain-backed Pipit, Buffy Pipit and Tawny Pipit by mantle and back streaking although wear and individual variation can make this difficult to see.


This is the most common Pipit in eastern and southern Africa.
Western Africa: Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola
Eastern Africa: Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi
Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, eSwatini
Middle East: Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Yemen


This species was formerly regarded a part of a much larger species called Anthus novaseelandiae which was split in African Pipit, Mountain Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit, Richard's Pipit and Australasian Pipit.

Some authors split subspecies camaroonensis from Cameroon and Nigeria as "Cameroon Pipit" (e.g. [7]), A. camaroonensis. Note that reference [7] includes subspecies lynesi in this species. However, their map suggests an incorrect interpretation of its distribution as they show the species restricted to Cameroon (lynesi extends to Sudan). Subspecies latistriatus may be split as "Jackson's Pipit", A. latistriatus.


Clements recognises the following subspecies [1]:

  • A. c. camaroonensis: "Cameroon Pipit". Cameroon (Mount Cameroon and Mount Manenguba). [larger (up to 1 cm); above darker but not as dark as latistriatus; wing feather edges off-white or buff]
  • A. c. eximius: Yemen [buff of breast darker and more extensive; dark speckling extending to lower breast (may form streaks)]
  • A. c. lynesi: South-eastern Nigeria to Cameroon and western Sudan (Darfur) [As camaroonensis but dorsum more brownish (less grey); the largest subspecies; clay-coloured below; wing feather edges buff or tawny-olive; throat and breast spotting even coarser]
  • A. c. stabilis: Central and southeastern Sudan and eastern South Sudan [compared with cinnamomeus top of head more heavily streaked; mantle/scapulars with broader streaking; feather fringes less ochraceous more vinaceous; below darker; throat and breast streaking heavier]
  • A. c. cinnamomeus: Highlands of western and south-eastern Ethiopia [breast warm buff with brownish; black spots; dorsum olive-brown with feathers edged darker]
  • A. c. annae: Eritrea to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, eastern Kenya and north-eastern Tanzania [the smallest subspecies: mean size around 8 cm less than cinnamomeus; lighter, paler with browner more diffuse spotting; extensive starkly white throat]
  • A. c. itombwensis: Eastern Zaire (Itombwe Highlands and Mount Kabobo) [Compared with cinnamomeus: upperparts darker, feather edges more vinaceous; underparts more vinaceous less reddish buff with heavier streaking. Appears similar to disjunct latistriatus]
  • A. c. lacuum: Kenya to south-eastern Uganda and central Tanzania. [dorsum buffy olivaceous (not vineaceous or greyish); breast buffier than annae, throat less starkly white; compared with cinnamomeus upperparts less saturated reddish; paler, less spotted below]
  • A. c. lichenya: North-eastern Angola to southern Zaire, western Uganda, western Tanzania and Mozambique. [Compared with cinnamomeus; above darker, more reddish with darker feather shafts (more heavily streaked); underparts similar but buff extends to the entire breast; reduced white (thinner) on outer tail. Compared withrufuloides upper and under parts redder and more saturated]
  • A. c. spurius: North-eastern Namibia to northern Botswana, southern Malawi and southern Mozambique. [Compared with laccuum colder, greyer above; feather centres deep blackish-brown without buff; spotting with larger blacker spots.]
  • A. c. bocagei: Angola to Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and northern Cape Province, [Only somewhat distinguishable from rufuloides: paler, duller. Underparts pale buff with lighter, sparser spotting]
  • A. c. rufuloides: South Africa (except north-west), eSwatini and Lesotho lowlands [From lichenya: duller, paler, less rufous. White of outer tail feathers more extensive than lichenya]
  • A. c. latistriatus: "Jackson's Pipit". Highlands of southwest Uganda, western Kenya, and northwest Tanzania. [upperparts blackish-brown; underparts cinnamon; wing feather edges buff; throat contrasting buffy white; all streaking blackish rather than brown or greyish, heavy from chest to flanks; bill base pink; outer tail feathers buff]
  • A. c. grotei: Salt pans of northern Namibia and northern Botswana. [Even paler than bocagii with upperparts greyish; feather edges whiter, underparts paler buff. From spurius: upperparts lighter and browner with paler feather fringes; underparts paler with more sparse spotting; outer tail feathers more extensively white]

(Subspecies descriptions based on [6], [7], [8])


Open habitats at altitudes of up to over 3000 m, grasslands and fields.


It has an undulating flight and can often be seen perching on posts and bushes. On the ground it walks with a strutting gait and often holds itself very erect.


The song is a repeated series of twittering notes, given during an undulating song-flight or from a low perch.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Sinclair, I., P.A.R. Hockey, W. Tarboton (2002). Birds of South Africa. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford. ISBN 0-691-09682-1
  3. Avibase
  4. Birdforum thread discussing id of an African Pipit
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Stevenson, T. & J Fanshawe 2020. Birds of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi) - second edition. Helm Field Guides, Christooher Helm London. ISBN 978-1-4081-5736-7
  7. Sinclair, I and P Ryan. 2010. Birds of Africa South of the Sahara. Second Edition. Struik Nature, (an imprint of Random House Struik (Pty) Ltd. ISBN 978-1770076235
  8. Clancey, P.A. (1986). Subspeciation in the pipit Anthus cinnamomeus Rüppell of the Afrotropics. Gerfaut. 76: 187-211

Recommended Citation

External Links

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