Friday, February 21, 2014
145 American Pipits at UNO
Yesterday I was treated to a flock of 145 American Pipits on the athletic fields at the southeast corner of the main UNO campus (Leon C. Simon x Elysian Fields). They were there at 9:00 when I walked onto campus, and at 11:30 when I walked off.
American Pipits are common winter residents in New Orleans, but you have to know where to look for them: large grassy expanses. There are usually some flocks that work the lakefront in Orleans and Jefferson, and others along the River levee. They are also common in similarly open habitats outside the city. They depart in early spring, to nest on the Arctic tundra.
Pipits walk on the ground, and don't like to be in areas with much cover. They are grayish above, streaky below, and rather nondescript. Thin beaks. Their easiest "handle" is their white outer tail feathers, which are easily seen in flight. Pipis are named for their call, which sounds to me like "sipit." When you flush a flock, many of the birds will make this high-pitched doublet- seldom do they flush quietly.
A flock hung out from Jan-Mar on this same athletic field last winter; I hope these birds will hang around as well.