THIS month I am going to continue with the subject of migration. But this month I’m talking about the meadow pipit, in relation to my local patch on Leopard Hill.

The meadow pipit is a house sparrow-sized bird that looks very much like a mini-thrush. It is one of those LBJs (Little Brown Jobs), birds that may possibly lead to a great deal of head-scratching following a brief glimpse.

The upper parts are a streaky olive-brown, with a plain face and pale eye-ring. The breast is tinged yellowish with strong black striping, the belly and outer tail feathers white and the legs flesh coloured. The bill is finely pointed as befits an insect eater. 

It has a distinctive song flight and call, both which help to dispel the image of a LBJ once you recognise them. The song flight, given on the breeding grounds, begins and ends at ground level, the bird ascending before parachuting down on half-closed wings calling in an accelerating ‘seep – seep’, ending in a trill. The flight call is a triple ‘sweet sweet sweet’.

It is a bird of open country breeding throughout the UK on uplands, lowland heaths, salt marsh, and rough grasslands. The nest is built on the ground, hidden amongst vegetation.


LBJ: The meadow pipit is one of nature’s so-called ‘little brown jobs’, which can lead to a deal of head-scratching among birdwatchers

LBJ: The meadow pipit is one of nature’s so-called ‘little brown jobs’, which can lead to a deal of head-scratching among birdwatchers


The four to five eggs are incubated for 13 days. That is, of course, unless the nesting pair are one of the many that are parasitised by the cuckoo, for on moorlands the meadow pipit is the most common ‘host’ for a cuckoo’s egg.

Like so many of our birds its numbers have fallen dramatically over the past 50 years, in this case by some 40 per cent, leaving a breeding population of around two million pairs in the UK. 

In August birds begin to leave their upland breeding territories. Although some leave the country, the majority don’t move that far and spend the winter in lowland Britain; on agricultural land, such as ploughed fields, on coastal marshes and at the edges of lakes and rivers. 

Now you may well ask, ‘what has all this to do with your local birdwatching patch within Worcester?’

It is true that meadow pipit neither breed nor winter on it. But if you remember, last month I mentioned the huge movement of birds throughout the country. The records I have compiled of my local patch, up on Leopard Hill, have shown it to be a migration route.


GROUND FEEDER: The meadow pipit on Leopard Hill

GROUND FEEDER: The meadow pipit on Leopard Hill


Not one of the major routes but, being above the valley of the Severn, small numbers of various bird species are migrating across it in spring and autumn.

I have seen meadow pipit on two occasions now, both in the same location on the patch and only for one day, the weedy field on the edge of the current construction site off Augusta Drive.

On Sept 22 2020, about 20 flew up from the field and, more recently, six were flushed in October from the pond in the same area.

They landed in the field and spent time in there feeding. They were hard to spot as they are ground feeders and only rarely perched in full view.

In fact, it was only because the odd one did perch on the fencing around the site that I was able to tell they were still present and some intensive searching revealed them feeding amongst the vegetation on the broken ground, as you can tell by the photos.