Day 39 of 100 days of Blogging

The Vesper Sparrow, whose song has inspired writers like Henry David Thoreau and John Burroughs, is this week’s featured species of the 13 New World  sparrows that breed in the PQSPB checklist area.

Sparrow of the Week #5: Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)

Family: Emberizidae   French: Bruant vespéra

10 Things about the Vesper Sparrow

#1. The Vesper Sparrow gets its common name from naturalist John Burroughs who described the bird as a “minstrel of the twilight field” in his poem Vesper Sparrow, referring to its habit of singing long after most other birds have become still. (The sunset evening prayer service in the Catholic Church is known as vespers.)

#2. Its song is clear and melodious, or in Burroughs more poetic words : “like wandering notes from a silver flute.”

You can decide for yourself, just play the sound file below!

#3. Vesper Sparrows breed in open grassy areas across most of North America. If you happen to be handy with Latin and Greek, you’d have figured that out from its scientific name: Pooecetes means “grass dweller” and gramineus means “fond of grass”. In fact, one of the names it was known as prior to the 1880’s was Grass Finch.

#4. The vesper Sparrow migrates to the southern and central United States and Mexico for the winter.

#5. Prior to the European settlement of North America, the Vesper Sparrow inhabited sparsely vegetated, open and fairly dry or disturbed sites that were created by fire, erosion, or bison.

#6. European settlement and clearing of forests for farmland was advantageous for the Vesper Sparrow; its eastern range expanded to its current distribution by 1900. Today there is a population decline as the result of the abandonment agricultural practices.

#7. This species is also negatively affected by the trend toward earlier harvest (e.g., Jun) of first hay crop, and more frequent cutting, which destroys nests.

#8. Vesper Sparrows eat invertebrates, insects, spiders beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars during breeding season. They also eat grass seeds, weed seeds, and waste grains in all seasons.

#9. This medium-large sparrow runs and hops and, although it is a strong flier, it usually moves through ground vegetation instead of flying. It is most likely to be confused with the Song Sparrow or the Savannah Sparrow.

#10. The Vesper Sparrow seeks the shade of plants during midday. It may roost on dusty road surfaces, using ruts for shade during the heat of day.