home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Anthus cinnamomeus (African pipit, Grassveld pipit) 

Gewone koester [Afrikaans]; Icelu, Icetshu (generic terms for pipit) [Xhosa]; umNgcelekeshu, umNgcelu (generic terms for pipit) [Zulu]; Tšase (generic term for pipit), Tšaase-ea-lithota [South Sotho]; Kaneelpieper [Dutch]; Pipit africain [French]; Weidelandpieper, (Spornpieper) [German]; Petinha-do-capim [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Motacillidae > Genus: Anthus

Anthus cinnamomeus (African pipit, Grassveld pipit)  Anthus cinnamomeus (African pipit, Grassveld pipit) 

African pipit, Bot River, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

African pipit, Vredenburg, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]
African pipit, Etosha National Park, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] African pipit juvenile, Bot River, Ntsikeni Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from the south-west of the Arabian peninsula through Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Tanzania, Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is common across much of the region excluding arid areas of Namibia, south-western Botswana and western South Africa. It generally prefers moist grassland, lightly wooded savanna, dry flood plains, recently burnt grassland, roadsides, playing fields and agricultural land.

Distribution of African pipit in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of the following animals:

Movements and migrations

It is though to be mainly resident however in the non-breeding season it may be nomadic, traveling in search of areas which have experience recent rainfall.


It mainly eats insects and other arthropods, doing most of its foraging the ground, sifting through debris in search of food and occasionally hawking prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, solitary nester, with each male defending his territory by going upwards in a deeply undulating flight while singing.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by mainly or solely by the female in at least 3-4 days, consisting of a neat cup made of dry grass and root stubble and lined with fine rootlets, hair and fibres. It is typically placed in a shallow depression in the ground at the base of a grass tuft or shrub, often on a sloping bank close to an open space or path.
Anthus cinnamomeus (African pipit, Grassveld pipit)   

African pipit nest with eggs, Wakkerstroom area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from August-May.
  • It lays 1-4, rarely 5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13-14 days.
  • The chicks are initially brooded by the female and fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 11-17 days, but remaining in the vicinity of the nest for longer, still reliant on the adults for food. If a predator approaches the young their parents attempt to lure it away from their brood by pretending to have a broken wing.


Not threatened, in fact it has benefited from agriculture and other human endeavours.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.