For the most part, pipits and wagtails are monogamous. However, polygyny and extra pair copulations do occur. The birds usually form pairs as soon as they reach their breeding grounds. The same pairs may nest together season to season. Pipits and wagtails are territorial and defend their nest site by singing from perches and performing song flights. Bill raising and wing vibration are also used during displays. In addition, some pipits exhibit courtship feeding.
Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous
Breeding in pipits and wagtails coincides with prey abundance. Nest building takes 4 to 20 days; nests are often placed on the ground, in trees, or in cavities in banks, cliffs, buildings or walls. Nests are usually protected by rocks and vegetation or are placed in a small hole or excavated cavity. They are cup shaped and made of grass, willow, bark, lichen, moss, leaves and twigs. Nests may be lined with grass, fur, feathers and rootlets, and are sometimes held together with mud. Some pipits build domed nests.
Clutch size is usually 4 to 7 for wagtails and 3 to 7 for pipits (usually five). Eggs are 13 to 16 by 17 to 21 mm and are white to light green to dark olive with dark spots. Incubation lasts 10 to 15 days. Only female pipits incubate, although males bring females food while they are on the nest. Both male and female wagtails incubate, but females spend more time on the eggs than males. Hatching is synchronous and the altricial young are brooded for 5 to 6 days. Both adults feed the nestlings and remove fecal sacks. Young are primarily fed insects. Fledging occurs after 12 to 15 days, but the chicks may leave as early as 9 days after hatching if the nest is disturbed. Chicks often leave the nest before they can fly, and they continue to be fed by their parents for 14 to 18 days.
Nest success is 50 to 65 percent. Failure may be caused by depredation or trampling by livestock and game. If the first nest attempt fails, the birds will re-nest. Pipit and wagtail nests are also parasitized by cuckoos (Cuculidae).
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Female pipits do all of the incubating and brooding of chicks (males help in wagtails). Incubation lasts 10 to 15 days and the altricial chicks are brooded for about 5 to 6 days after hatching. Chicks are fed insects by both parents. Adults also remove fecal sacks from the nests. Chicks leave the nest 12 to 15 days after hatching. Nestlings usually fledge before they can fly and continue to receive parental care for 14 to 18 days.
If a predator approaches an active nest, the adults give alarm calls and will often feign injury to draw the predator away.
Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care
- The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
- bibliographic citation
- Camfield, A. 2004. "Motacillidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Motacillidae.html
- Alaine Camfield, Animal Diversity Web
- Kari Kirschbaum, Animal Diversity Web