An Eco-sustainable World
BirdsSpecies Animal

Anthus pratensis

Anthus pratensis

The Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis Linnaeus, 1758) is a bird belonging to the Motacillidae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Animalia,
Phylum Chordata,
Subphylum Vertebrata,
Aves class,
Subclass Neornithes,
Superorder Neognathae,
Order Passeriformes,
Suborder Oscines,
Infraorder Passerida,
Superfamily Passeroidea,
Motacillidae family,
Genus Anthus,
Species A. pratensis.
The term is basionym:
– Alauda pratensis Linnaeus, 1758.
Within this species, some authors recognize the following subspecies:
– Anthus pratensis subsp. pratensis;
– Anthus pratensis subsp. whistleri Clancey, 1942.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Anthus pratensis is a small passerine bird, which reproduces in a large part of the Palearctic, from south-eastern Greenland and from Iceland to the east, up to the east of the Ural mountains in Russia, and southwards up to central France and Romania; an isolated population is also found in the Caucasus Mountains.
This bird is migratory over most of its range.
It winters in southern Europe, north Africa and south-western Asia, but resides year-round in western Europe, although even here many birds move to the coast or lowlands in winter. However in the warm season it resides mainly in Ireland, Great Britain and nearby coastal areas of Western Europe.
In Italy it is present both in the North and in the South, Sicily and Sardinia.
Its habitat is mainly that of open, uncultivated places or in areas with extensive agriculture, such as pastures, peat bogs and heaths, but it is also found in small numbers in arable land. It also uses sandbanks and sometimes open woodland in winter.
It mainly inhabits large uncultivated areas, such as pastures and heaths.

Description –
The Anthus pratensis is a small passerine bird with a length of about 14,5 -15 cm, a wingspan of 25 – 27 cm and a weight ranging between 15 and 22 g.
It has a brown colouration in both sexes in the upper parts with marked cream and very dark brown streaks. Juveniles are very similar to adults.
The beak is quite tapered and the legs are light orange in colour; the hind claw is noticeably long, longer than the rest of the hind toes.
The underparts are off-white – beige, heavily streaked with brown, especially on the throat and upper chest and then fading towards the abdomen and flanks.
The tail is brown, with narrow white lateral edges.
Of note, birds breeding in Ireland and the west of Scotland are slightly darker in color than those in other areas and are often distinguished as subspecies A. p. whistler.
The call is a faint tsi-tsi-like sound, very similar to Anthus trivialis, which is slightly larger and has fewer streaks. The song of the Anthus pratensis accelerates towards the end, while that of the Anthus trivialis slows down.

Biology –
The Anthus pratensis is a bird that builds its nest on the ground, hidden among the blades of grass, where it camouflages itself very easily.
The female lays two to five eggs which she incubates together with the male.
Eggs hatch after 11-15 days, with chicks fledging 10-14 days after hatching.
Usually there are two broods during the year.
This species is one of the cuckoo’s most important nesting hosts, and is also an important prey item for porbeagles and harriers.
Even if this bird prefers the open areas with low vegetation, out of prudence, it avoids zones having large surfaces of uncovered soil, bare soils, but also too tall or thick herbaceous vegetation.

Ecological Role –
Anthus pratensis was formally described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae with the binomial name Alauda pratensis.
The genus Anthus was introduced in 1805 by the German naturalist Johann Matthäus Bechstein. The generic term Anthus is the Latin name of a prairie bird mentioned by Pliny the Elder, and the specific name pratensis means “of a meadow”, from pratum, “meadow”.
This bird is fairly terrestrial where it feeds, but uses elevated perches such as shrubbery, fence lines, or electrical wires as vantage points to stay alert for predators.
It mainly feeds on insects, spiders and other small invertebrates, mostly less than 5 mm long; however, especially in winter, it also nourishes of grass seeds, sedges, rushes, heather and other small berries and, occasionally, also of snails.
The total world population has been estimated at about 12 million pairs; it is an abundant species in the north of its range and generally the most common breeding bird in most of upland Britain, but less common further south. A few isolated breeding pairs are recorded south of the main range, in the mountains of Spain, Italy and the northern Balkans. There has been a general decline in population in recent years, most notable in French farmland, with a decline of 68% in less than 20 years.
In Italy it has been a protected animal since 1984.

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– C.Battisti, D. Taffon, F. Giucca, 2008. Atlas of nesting birds, Gangemi Editore, Rome.
– L. Svensson, K.Mullarney, D. Zetterstrom, 1999. Guide to Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Near East, Harper Collins Publisher, UK.

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