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Rock Pipit

A pipit species found in Dorset almost exclusively on the rocky limestone of the Purbeck and Portland coasts.

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

The rock pipit (Anthus petrosus) is aptly named; it is a member of the pipit family and is found only around rocky shores. Given Dorset has rocky shores almost continuously from from Ballard Down north of Swanage in the east to Lyme Regis west it is not surprising that the rock pipit can be frequently seen here. Due to its specific habitat preference restricting its distribution it is not a species you will encounter readily unless you go to the right locations and in those places it can be quite easily found although it does not occur in big numbers anywhere. Superficially it looks quite similar to many of the other pipit species so it is this affinity to rocky shore lines that help set it apart and identifiable. The rock pipit is a resident British species and does not migrate and they usually stay in the same location all year round.

The weekly reports chart from your tweets seems to tell a slightly different story however. There are reports every week from the beginning of the year until week 22 at the end of May. There is than a gap with no reports until week 36 at the beginning of September when weekly reports come in again every week until the end of the year. If this is a non-migratory species where do they disappear to during that thirteen week period in mid summer? They start nesting in April and so they are not moving away to breed and they usually have two broods so the breeding season is likely to go in to June which is when the reporting gap has started. I have no answer to this conundrum and if anyone has an explanation I would love to hear it. May be the situation will become clearer the longer the Nature of Dorset database accumulates records.

There are reports from twenty two locations in Dorset and all are coastal as the distribution map clearly shows. What is interesting when contemplating that gap in reports is that few of the twenty two sites actually report rock pipit regularly and during the winter of early 2019 there were a number of regular reports from Church Ope Cove on Portland for about three weeks and then the reports stopped. That to me indicates that there is some migrational movement in this species.

A trip to the Tilly Whim caves at Durlston or the rocky coast by the Lobster Pot at Portland Bill should ensure that the rock pipit is added to your Dorset list.


Common Name Rock Pipit
Scientific Name Anthus petrosus
Species Group Birds Pipits and Wagtails
Status Local
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

A meadow pipit in rocky habitats

Identification Notes
  • Similar in appearance to the more common meadow pipit
  • Found exclusively on rocky shorelines, notably Portland and the Purbeck coast
  • The same species as the water pipit but found in totally different habitat 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Pipits and Wagtails