The Rock Pipit, Anthus petrosus, is a small passerine bird which breeds on rocky coasts of western Europe northwards from Brittany. It is mainly resident in Ireland, Great Britain and France, in the west of its range, but the Scandinavian and Russian populations migrate south in winter.
Like most other pipits, this is an undistinguished looking species on the ground, mainly dark brown above and heavily streaked buff below. It has dark legs, pale grey outer tail feathers and a longish dark bill. Its dark plumage is an adaptation to the rocky coasts on which it breeds and winters.
West European birds (race petrosus) remain dark grey-buff all year. Scandinavian and Baltic Sea birds (race littoralis) may show pinkish underparts and a pale supercilium in summer, thus resembling the closely related Water Pipit, with which Rock Pipit was previously considered conspecific (Sangster et al., 2002); they are usually indistinguishable from petrosus in winter.
Judging from external (Alström & Mild, 1987) and molecular (Voelker, 1999) characteristics, this species and the Water Pipit are very closely related. They can be told apart by their song (Leonovich et al, 1997), and while they may be found in the same general area occasionally, they do not utilize the same habitat (Bijlsma, 1977). Rock Pipits tend to be found along rocky coasts whereas Water Pipits favour damp grassland. The Rock Pipit is a much tamer bird than the Water Pipit; if startled, it flies a fairly short distance, close to the ground, before it lands again.
This species is insectivorous. Its call is an explosive "fit". The song, as in many pipits, is a series of "blocks" of repeated more or less shrill cheeping single or double notes; it ends on a trill and has usually fewer, but longer-lasting "blocks" (a dozen repetitions or more) than in the Water Pipit.
Rock Pipit, Suğuroy, Faroe Islands