New Zealand Pipit & Eurasian Skylark



Their physical differences are subtle; the NZ pipit is more slender, has a thinner beak and a thicker white stripe across the top of each eye than the skylark. The two species are more easily distinguished by their behavior. See below for a summary of their similarities and differences.


NZ Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae)

Skylark (Alauda arvensis)



Introduced from Europe in the 1860’s





Open country from coast to alpine

Open country from coast to subalpine


Mainly insects, some seeds

Mainly seeds, some insects


Simple (i.e.‘scree’ & ‘pee-pit’)

Sing from high perch


Melodious, male sings while on the wing at heights of up to 100m August to January


Approachable, repeatedly flick tail as they walk and bob body slightly with each step

Wary, raise crest on head when alarmed

Breeding season




Grass-lined in depression on ground, may be concealed under tall grass, bracken or scrub

Grass-lined in depression on ground, may be concealed under grass

Clutch size

~4 eggs

2-5 eggs

Number of clutches/ season

Up to 4


Parental behaviour

Female builds nest & incubates eggs, both parents care for chicks

Female builds nest  & incubates eggs, both parents care for chicks

Autumn/ winter behaviour

May form loose flocks

May form loose flocks


Incredibly, for all their similarities the skylark and NZ pipit, while both passerines, belong to different taxonomic families.  The skylark belongs to the family Alaudidae along with other larks, while the NZ pipit belongs to the family Motacillidae, which encompasses the wagtails, longclaws and other pipit species.

NZ pipits were once an important prey species for NZ falcons and the now extinct laughing owl.  While their numbers would have benefitted from early land clearance (and presumably the extinction of the laughing owl), they have since declined with more intensive land use, leaving less scrubby open country, and predation by rats and other predators.

While the skylark is common here, in Britain populations are a third the size they were 30 years ago.  This is thought to be a consequence of changes in farming practices and possibly the use of pesticides. The skylark populations in New Zealand may prove important to their future conservation. 

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