The plain-backed pipit is a large pipit at 17 cm, but is otherwise an undistinguished looking species, faintly streaked grey-brown above and pale below with light breast streaking. It has a strong white supercilium, and dark moustachial stripes. It has long legs and tail, and a long dark bill. Sexes are similar, but juveniles have warmer brown upperparts. Some care must be taken to distinguish this species from wintering tawny pipits, Anthus campestris. The plain-backed pipit is sturdier and darker than the Tawny, and stands more upright.

Habitat and Distribution

It is found in open habitats, especially short grassland and cultivation.


Like other pipits, this species is insectivorous.


It builds its cup-shaped nest on the ground and usually lays three eggs.

Calls and Songs

Perhaps the best distinction is the characteristic `ssissik` call, quite different from the tawny pipit's `tchilip`.