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Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has a small range in which its habitat is severely fragmented and declining in extent and quality, which in turn is suspected to be driving a decline in its small population. Confirmation that the area of suitable habitat totals less than 400 km2 would likely make the species eligible for uplisting.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

17-17.5 cm. Richly coloured pipit with heavy streaking (del Hoyo et al. 2004). Has broad deep buff to whitish supercilium, darker buff ear-coverts, sometimes some dark spots in malar region; crown and upperparts tawny-olive or warm grey-brown with greenish-yellow tinge; crown to mantle and scapulars heavily streaked blackish-brown, back to uppertail coverts streaked grey-brown. Remiges and wing coverts dark brown, with two wing bars. Tail dark brown. Throat, breast and flanks deep buff; belly paler buff, with blackish brown streaks on breast and flanks. Iris dark brown; bill blackish; legs pale pink or yellowish pink. Sexes alike. Juvenile paler with more distinct streaking. Similar spp Distinguished from other pipits in range by lack of malar stripe. Voice Song feeble, initially quiet, accelerating into a trill tsip tsip tsip-tsip-sip-sip-sipsipsipsipsip, ending abruptly. Call a weak see see (del Hoyo et al. 2004).

Distribution and population
Anthus nilghiriensis is endemic to the Western Ghats of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, southern India (BirdLife International 2001). It is locally fairly common within its small range, particularly above 2,000 m (Vinod 2007). Surveys conducted in 2002-2004 found the species to be almost extinct at some former sites (U. J. Vinod in litt. 2010, 2011), suggesting that the population is in decline. Following these surveys, the total population is estimated to number fewer than 10,000 mature individuals; however, data on the species's population density in suitable habitat receiving protection (0.1 birds/ha) and an estimate of the remaining area of montane grassland in its range (400 km2) (Vinod 2007, U. J. Vinod in litt. 2010, 2011) suggest that even an estimate of c.4,000 mature individuals is optimistic.

Population justification
Recent surveys suggest that the species occurs at a density of c.0.1 birds/ha in suitable, protected habitat, and that the total area of montane grassland in its range may be only 400 km2 , not all of which will be suitable for the species (U. J. Vinod in litt. 2010). Assuming that the majority of birds recorded in the surveys were breeding adults, these data imply that an optimistic population estimate would be c.4,000 mature individuals. However, given the uncertainty around these numbers, the population is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be in decline owing to on-going habitat loss, degradation and disturbance.

It occurs on grassy upland slopes interspersed with bushes and trees, mainly above 1,500 m, and is commonest over 2,000 m, but sometimes descends to c.1,000 m. The species has been observed to feed mostly on creeping grass in valleys, but to nest in marshy grasslands with slightly taller grasses and sedges, particularly near streams (Vinod 2007). In marshy areas, the species nests predominantly in Andropogon polypticus and feeds mainly in Mariscus cyperinus (Vinod 2007). It is usually found singly or in pairs, even in the non-breeding season. The species breeds from February to June, with a peak in April (Vinod 2007). Clutch size is usually two and incubation, exclusively by the female, lasts for 14-15 days. Average territory size has been recorded as 0.15 ha (n = 9; range 0.06-0.25 ha). It feeds on invertebrates, mostly Coleopteran species, and seeds, strongly favouring invertebrates in the breeding season, and switching to a preference for seeds during the non-breeding season. The timing of breeding appears to be associated with higher temperatures and increased invertebrate abundance. It has been recorded consuming the seeds of grasses (Eragrostris nigra, Isachnae kunthiana and Isachaemum ciliare) and a herb (Cyanotis wightii) (Vinod 2007).

Its grassland habitat is gradually being converted to plantations of tea, eucalyptus and silver wattle Acacia dealbata. The unintentional spread of wattle and invasive scotch broom Cytisus scoparius to grasslands is another long-term threat (Zarri et al. 2004). Tea planters use Andropogon polypticus to cover tea plants during the winter. This activity threatens Nilgiri Pipit as it nests in the clumps of Andropogon polypticus and hence many nests are destroyed (A. Rahmani in litt. 2012). Livestock grazing and frequent fires also pose threats to the species (Vinod 2007). During fieldwork conducted in 2002-2004, the species was found to be more abundant within protected areas compared to suitable habitat receiving no protection, suggesting that it is affected by disturbance (Vinod 2007). Disturbance may be increasing as ever higher resorts are constructed in the sholas that border areas of montane grassland. As the species often occupies habitat at the very top of hills, it is potentially threatened by the effects of climate change.

Conservation Actions Underway
Like all wild birds in India, it is protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and is listed in Schedule IV. It is found within many well-known Protected Areas. The species was the focus of a recent PhD thesis which recommended a review of its threat status. Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out further surveys to obtain a more accurate population estimate. Monitor population trends. Map the species's Area of Occupancy by calculating the area of suitable habitat above 1,000 m. Identify threats to its habitat and whether declines are likely. Monitor trends in the extent and condition of habitat. Strict protection of all natural grasslands in the Western Ghats, especially those in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Incorporate Upper Bhavani and Bison Swamp areas into adjacent Mukurthi National Park. Stop plantation of exotic trees in all grasslands. Control the spread of the invasive Scotch Broom. Avoid livestock grazing and fire in the nesting habitat during the breeding nseason. begin an awareness programme for local people and policy makers about the importance of conserving the grasslands of the Western Ghats.

Alström, P.; Mild, K. 2003. Pipits and wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Vinod, U. J. 2007. Status and ecology of the Nilgiri Pipit in the Western Ghats. PhD, Bharathiar University.

Zarri, A. A., Rahmani, A. R. and Behan, M. 2004. Scotch Broom Cytisus scoparius invasion of shola grassland ecosystem in the Nilgiris. A preliminary report on the extent of invasion, biology, impact on wildlife and control of Scotch Broom. Bombay Natural History Society, India.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Crosby, M., Taylor, J., Allinson, T

Vinod, U., Jayadevan, P., Subramanya, S., Rahmani, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Anthus nilghiriensis. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Motacillidae (Wagtails and pipits)
Species name author Sharpe, 1885
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 11,600 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species