WASHINGTON (CN) – Male Sprauge’s pipits put on mating fight displays of up to three hours-the longest known in the avian world-but this tiny bird, which the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service plans to protect under the Endangered Species Act, is one of the least known in North America.
The pipit’s camouflaging plumage keeps it hidden, and its numbers are in severe decline, according to the agency, which announced that listing the bird under the act is warranted but precluded by higher priority listings at this time.
Named by John James Audubon after Issac Spraugue, who accompanied Audobon on his Missouri River expedition in 1843, the small inhabitant of well-drained grasslands once was abundant across the prairie of the American and Canadian west, but began to lose habitat and numbers almost as soon as Audobon identified it as the region was ploughed under for agriculture in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Even after fields are retired from agricultural use, the ploughing under of prairie grass allows shrubs trees to encroach, where the pipit refuses to nest.
The agency’s listing action follows a 12 month status review initiated by a petition from WildEarth Guardians to protect the pipit.
As with all “warranted but precluded” decisions, critical habitat designation is postponed until the funds become available to proceed with listing the species under the act.