Rock Pipit

Anthus petrosus (Montagu, 1798) RC ROCPI 10142
Family: Passeriformes > Motacillidae

Rock Pipit, Edmund Fellowes

Grey and streaky, with dark legs, the Rock Pipit is a denizen of our rocky shoreline throughout the year.

The Rock Pipit is rarely seen away from the coast. However, during the winter months the largely resident population is joined by migrants from northern Europe and at this time birds of the Continental race can occasionally be seen inland, but nearly always along the ‘rocky’ edges of manmade lakes and reservoirs.

Data from ringing give insight into the resident and migrant populations. The resident birds move very little during their lifetime, whilst some of the migrant birds fly thousands of kilometres in a season.


Rock Pipit identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Rock Pipit.

related video

Identifying Water Pipit and Rock Pipit

This Bird ID focuses on separating the UK-resident Rock Pipit from the relatively rare Water Pipit, and both from the ubiquitous Meadow Pipit.

Once thought to be the same species, Rock Pipit and Water Pipit can now be told apart by focusing on finer plumage detail.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Rock Pipit, provided by xeno-canto contributors.



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The breeding population and trend of the Rock Pipit is poorly understood. It is too common to be monitored by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel and yet not sufficiently common widespread to be monitored by the Breeding Bird Survey. Furthermore, its specialist habitat requirements and the fact that it is not thought to be declining mean that it is not covered by occasional surveys which monitor other less common species (e.g. breeding wader surveys). It is found around most of the coasts of the UK wherever suitable rocky habitat exists with gaps where the only habitats are sandy beaches and saltmarsh, such as along much of the east coast of England (Balmer et al. 2013). There has been little change in the number of occupied 10-km squares since the 1968–72 Atlas (Balmer et al. 2013), suggesting stability. However, the population estimate for Rock Pipit, of 34,000 pairs (APEP4), is based on the data from the 1988–91 Bird Atlas (Gibbons et al. 1993) and has never been updated.


Breeding Rock Pipits are stringly tied to rocky coasts and are absent from long stretches of low-lying coasts characterised by saltmarshes, mudflats or sandy beaches. The highest breeding densities are in western Ireland, southwest Wales, the Hebrides and Northern Isles. The winter distribution remains almost exclusively coastal but enlarges to include the saltmarshes of eastern England, these being inhabited by migrant Rock Pipits from Fennoscandia.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Little is known about trends for breeding Rock Pipits. Range changes have been modest but there is evidence of localised population declines on some Scottish islands.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Rock Pipit is recorded year-round, with a distinct peak in autumn during passage.

Weekly occurence of Rock Pipit from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Rock Pipit ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Rock Pipit, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Gabhagan
Welsh: Corhedydd y Graig
Catalan: grasset de costa
Czech: linduška skalní
Danish: Skærpiber
Dutch: Oeverpieper
Estonian: randkiur
Finnish: luotokirvinen
French: Pipit maritime
German: Strandpieper
Hungarian: parti pityer
Icelandic: Strandtittlingur
Irish: Riabhóg Chladaigh
Italian: Spioncello marino
Latvian: akmenu cipste
Lithuanian: uolinis kalviukas
Norwegian: Skjærpiplerke
Polish: swiergotek nadmorski
Portuguese: petinha-marítima
Slovak: labtuška skalná
Slovenian: obalna vriskarica
Spanish: Bisbita costero
Swedish: skärpiplärka
Folkname: Tangle Sparrow


Interpretation and scientific publications about Rock Pipit from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The little knowledge we have of this species suggests that there has been no substantial change in its status. Its preference for rocky coastal habitats is likely to mean that, in contrast to most other species depending on other habitats in the UK, the Rock Pipit has been relatively undisturbed and its habitat has remained relatively unchanged. However, given the lack of knowledge about the population trends for this species further research would be prudent, both to confirm that the population is stable and to better understand the requirements of this species.

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