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Meadow and tree pipit

Meadow and tree pipit

Pipits are amongst the commonest birds on the heathlands of the New Forest. The meadow pipit is common throughout Hampshire and the UK, while the tree pipit is just as widespread but not as common.

Meadow pipits breed on any treeless, open ground, such as heathland, downland and short grassland and they can be found all over the New Forest and surrounding area. Tree pipits are more choosy. They prefer open ground with scattered trees and bushes. Young plantations and heathland with a few trees suit them well, but this is a scarcer habitat and so the tree pipit is less common.

Both pipits have a wonderful display flight. They fly up while calling and then glide back down on parachute- like wings as they deliver a series of descending notes. Meadow pipits tend to start and finish from the ground, while tree pipits start and finish from a tree or bush.

You can easily find meadow pipits anywhere on the open heath at any time of year. Tree pipits are summer visitors. Look for them in heathy areas with scattered trees or open parts of pine plantations from April through to July.

The meadow pipit is also the main host species for cuckoos breeding in heathland areas of the New Forest.

Photo credit: Steve Garvie from Dunfermline – Tree Pipit

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With their brown backs and speckled breasts, pipits resemble thrushes, but they are smaller (about the size of a sparrow) and have thinner beaks. Meadow pipits and tree pipits are very similar: the best way to tell them apart is the habitat they are found in and their song flight. Visually the tree pipit has far fewer black streaks along the flanks than the meadow pipit.

Lead Ranger


'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of July.'

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