Meadow Pipit – 2003-07 breeding

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed9666
Breeding probable6295
Breeding possible5631
No of tetrads occupied214 (of 478)192 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads44.8%39.2%

Meadow Pipits are ground-nesters, in open, rough grassland, heathland and moorland, where at an important host-species for the Cuckoo.  In Pembrokeshire, Meadow Pipits can be found on rough grazing on the coastal slopes and headlands, on the islands, Ramsey, Skomer and Skokholm in particular, on lowland heathlands and on the slopes and tops of the Preseli Hills where they are the most numerous breeding passerine.  Grasslands on the old, disused airfields such as Templeton, St Davids and Brawdy, which are extensively grazed, are also important for Meadow Pipits.  Reseeded permanent pasture that is intensively grazed by dairy cattle or sheep is unsuitable for Meadow Pipits: the short swards provide insufficient cover for nesting, and disturbance from livestock grazed intensively is a hazard. Sheep are known to consume the eggs of Meadow Pipits.

Following the 1984-88 tetrad survey, it was noted that although still a common species, the Meadow Pipit had declined since, for example, Lockley’s review in 1949, in which he describes the Meadow Pipit as a common species.  In between the two tetrad surveys, further changes occurred.

These figures suggest that changes in the distribution of Meadow Pipits have been both subtle and localised, although overall, they point to a decline in the breeding population.  The distribution map shows that whilst there have been gains in some areas, there are now significant areas of Pembrokeshire away from the principal peninsulas, coastal fringes, and the Preseli Hills, where the Meadow Pipit is absent as a breeding species.  Reasons for the overall decline and fragmentation of the breeding population are almost certainly linked to changes in agricultural practices, in particular farms moving out of more extensively mixed farming regimes into intensive dairy and sheep farming.

Following the 1984-88 tetrad survey, it was estimated that there were about 4,000 breeding pairs, based on an average density of 20 pairs per tetrad. Assuming that Meadow Pipits still occur at a similar density, then based on the number of tetrads where breeding was confirmed or probable during the 2003-07 tetrad survey, the breeding population is thought to be approximately 3,220 pairs.

Jane Hodges

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

More about the Meadow Pipit in Pembrokeshire

Meadow Pipit – 1994

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant

1984-88
Breeding confirmed96
Breeding probable62
Breeding possible56
No of tetrads occupied214 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads44.8%

Both Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949) regarded the Meadow Pipit as a common resident. Although still a common species, it is now locally distributed (see map). It is probably less numerous than formerly, as sweeping changes in land management have taken place since the previous reviews, erstwhile suitable habitat being eradicated by the establishment of dairy and arable regimes. Breeding is now confined to the rougher areas of the coastal fringe, mountains, bogs and commons, and the islands and pockets of the least intensively farmed areas, such as Templeton airfield. At an estimated average density of 20 pairs per occupied tetrad, the total breeding population would be about 4,000 pairs.

There is a distinct passage between mid- February and April, when small parties of up to 20 are seen flying in off the sea from the south, passing through the western coastlands and islands and departing from the north coast between north-west and north-east. They frequently stop off to feed on the way and can accumulate into groups of 100 or more, but soon move on. They also pass at night, for about 20 were seen at the lantern of the South Bishop lighthouse on the night of 27 February 1976 and “a lot” on the following night.

Migrants begin to pass through again in August, with a peak in passage from September to mid-October, when up to 500 have occurred at Skomer and 1,000 at Skokholm, continuing on a diminishing scale into mid-November. They predominantly pass southwards and ringing returns show that some continue as far as France, Portugal and Spain. There is also a small north-westerly movement in October which may consist of birds moving to Ireland.

Meadow Pipits can be found on the tops of the Preseli Mountains during mild winters but not in colder weather, when they presumably descend to lower ground. Others are sparsely distributed across Pembrokeshire during the winter. A walk will reveal ones and twos per field but they sometimes gather into small groups at favoured spots, particularly at places that were recently covered by floodwater and at cattle feeding areas. They also frequent urban gardens in winter.

Severe winter weather causes an accumulation in coastal areas but it is not known whether these are from the immediate hinterland or represent birds from further east trying to keep ahead of advancing cold conditions. Prolonged bad weather causes hardship, for example 23 were found dead on Skomer in the cold of January 1962 (Harris 1962), and of dozens gathered in the farmyard at Southern Pitts (Garron) during snow in January 1985, attracted to gleanings of maize, barley and silage, many died and others fell victim to marauding cats.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

HARRIS, M.P. 1962. Weights from five hundred birds found dead on Skomer Island in January 1962. British Birds 55: 97-103

More about the Meadow Pipit in Pembrokeshire

Meadow Pipit – 1980s winter

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant

The BTO winter atlas showed that Meadow Pipits were present in the majority of 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84.

The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 44 birds.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO. Lack, P. 1986 Atlas of wintering birds in Britain and Ireland. T & A.D. Poyser.

More about the Meadow Pipit in Pembrokeshire

Meadow Pipit – 1894

Anthus pratensis – A common resident.

Mr. Dix says: “Breeds on the mountains and bogs. I have seen this bird on the tops of the mountains, where, excepting the Skylark, it is the only bird to be seen; in such places I have often heard it singing, as it stood upon a stone or a bunch of heath. About September, or the beginning of October, it comes down into the more sheltered parts, following the plough in small flocks.” He adds: “They are constantly to be found in the sheep-fold, running fearlessly about.”

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Meadow Pipit in Pembrokeshire

Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant

Meadow Pipit – 2003-07 breeding

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 96 66 Breeding probable 62 95 Breeding possible 56 31 No of tetrads occupied 214 (of 478) 192 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 44.8% 39.2% Meadow Pipits are ground-nesters, in open, rough grassland, heathland and […]

Meadow Pipit – 1994

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 96 Breeding probable 62 Breeding possible 56 No of tetrads occupied 214 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 44.8% Both Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949) regarded the Meadow Pipit as a common resident. Although still a common species, it is now […]

Meadow Pipit – 1980s winter

Anthus pratensis – CORHEDYDD Y WAUN – Breeding resident and passage migrant The BTO winter atlas showed that Meadow Pipits were present in the majority of 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 44 birds. […]

Meadow Pipit – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.

Meadow Pipit – 1894

Species account from the 1894 ‘Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands’ by Rev M A Mathew