Home On The Range?

African Birdlife|May - June 2020

Home On The Range?
Is the Mountain Pipit an altitudinal migrant into KwaZulu-Natal?
Ingrid Weiersbye

In September 2019 at Midmar Nature Reserve, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, I became aware of several pipits that stood out on the burnt veld. They appeared different to the usual, regular pipit species of the area, namely the local subspecies of African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus rufuloides, as well as Plain-backed and Nicholson’s. These birds appeared greyer and whiter below, very unlike the local, more brown-hued African and Plain-backed pipits.

They were evasive and eluded me when I tried to get close to photograph them. They reminded me of the western, drier region African Pipit subspecies A. c. bocagii and A. c. grotei (Chittenden et al. 2012), whose presence would seem improbable in this area. After many visits I was eventually able to photograph one of the birds on 6 October 2019 in a recently burnt area, adjacent to a fallow field. It resembled an African-type pipit but had a stockier build and a shorter bill.

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May - June 2020