VESPER SPARROW(Pooecetes gramineus) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Vesper Sparrow back, wing and long tail are brown with beige edges and streaks. It has a chestnut patch on the shoulders, and a white eye ring. Throat and breast are beige with brown streaks, belly is beige. Also has a brown spot on the breast. Outer tail feathers are white, can only be seen in flight. Conical bill is grey, legs are pink. Sexes are similar. Length is about 15 cm (6 inches).
VOICE: – Needs higher vegetation for singing, posts or poles.
NAME: ‘Sparrow’ derives from Anglo-Saxon ‘Spearwa’, which means ‘flutterer’. Bird is named ‘Vesper’ due to habit of singing at dusk (‘Vesper’ in Latin means ‘dusk’, ‘evening’). Name given to the bird because it was singing at the same time as the Catholic ‘Vespers’. Latin name ‘Pooecetes’ means ‘to dwell in the grass’, due to the bird’s foraging habits. Latin species name ‘gramineus’ refers to the bird’s diet (seeds and grain).
HABITAT: Fields and grasslands, blueberry fields in the Maritimes.
DIET: Forages on the ground for insects and other invertebrates, also seeds and grain.
NESTING: Nest built on the ground in a well-sheltered location. Between three and six white eggs with brown spots are laid, incubated by the female. Chicks fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeding range in Canada and USA covers mainly the central Plains. Migrate in small groups at night to southern USA and Mexico.
Distribution map:
ON PEI: Breeds on Prince Edward Island, but sightings occasional.
CONSERVATION: Maritimes population decreased in its traditional habitat, but increased in wild blueberry fields. One subspecies in British Columbia is listed as ‘endangered’ by COWEWIC, due to habitat loss from modern farm practices and urbanization. Other breeding areas in the USA have also experienced population declines but not enough yet to be considered at risk.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow
REFERENCES: (Missouri Department of Conservation)
American Bird Conservancy (Vesper Sparrow) (Montana Field Guide)

Vesper Sparrow on fence post – USA – Apr. 25, 2009 – Tim
Vesper sparrow, USA, by Tim