Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation).  The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations).  The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).  For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 1,620,000-3,160,000 pairs, which equates to 3,230,000-6,320,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).  Europe forms c.25% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 12,920,000-25,280,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.  The European population is estimated to be stable (BirdLife International 2015).


The species breeds on alpine pastures and high-lying mountain meadows with short grassland and scattered rocks, bushes or trees, usually with some wet areas, often on mountain slopes and also on stony scree with thickets in the far east of the range.  In the winter it is found on coastal saltings, lagoons, marshes, grassy edges of lakes and rivers, sewage farms, watercress farms, rice fields and other irrigated cultivation.  In Europe, egg-laying occurs from the end of April to early July.  The nest is a cup made of grass stems and leaves with some moss incorporated and lined with finer material and some hairs.  It is sited on the ground in the side of a bank or hollow, usually well concealed by vegetation or sometimes at the end of a tunnel.  Normally four to six eggs are laid.  It feeds mainly on invertebrates but also takes some plant material.  The species is chiefly a short-distance or altitudinal migrant with regular migration from the high mountains down to the lowlands in autumn (Tyler 2016).


In some areas, grazing animals have been shown to have a significant negative impact on the nesting success of this species (Pavel 2004).  It is also thought to be threatened by climate change (Ebenhöh 2003, Melendez and Laiolo 2014).  In addition, the spread of ski pistes has also been shown to be detrimental to this species (Caprio et al. 2014).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II.

Conservation Actions Proposed
In some areas, low-intensity grazing should be promoted. Important areas should also be protected from disturbance from skiing activities.  More information is needed on the species outside Europe (Tyler 2016).


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Anthus spinoletta. Downloaded from on 06/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 06/06/2023.