Sprague's Pipit
(Anthus spragueii)


Picture of bird
© Christian Artuso
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Sprague's Pipit nests in native grasslands across the southern prairie provinces. Results from the Breeding Bird Survey indicate an 80% decrease in abundance in Canada since the early 1970s. In 2000, Sprague's Pipit was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Threatened because of population declines and continuing habitat loss (reaffirmed in 2010; COSEWIC 2010g) and was listed as such under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2010 
SARA (Canada)Threatened2003 
IUCN (Global)Vulnerable2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500,000 - 5,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts in mid-May and ends in mid-August, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Like other species adapted to native prairie grasslands, the Sprague's Pipit likely declined significantly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when grasslands were converted to agricultural crops. The species is also less common on areas seeded to non-native grass than on native grasslands (Davis et al. 2014). It has been suggested that fire, grazing, or mowing is necessary to maintain habitat quality by reducing encroachment of shrubs (Environment Canada 2012). Sprague's Pipit is sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation, sometimes as a result of linear development (e.g., roads, trails, power-lines, pipelines; Davis 2004, Environment Canada 2012). Appropriately managed grazing practices can help to maintain optimal habitat for this species. For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view the Recovery Strategy, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Taiga PlainsBoreal Taiga Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation & Stewardship