Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Tim/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow
Pooecetes gramineus
Perching Birds | Family: New World Sparrows, Emberizidae

An estimated 10% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

The rich, musical song of this sparrow is a most distinctive sound on rolling farmlands. Long known as the "Bay-winged Bunting," the bird was given the pleasing if somewhat inappropriate name Vesper Sparrow by the naturalist John Burroughs, who thought the song sounded more melodious in the evening. The bird is usually found on the ground but often mounts to an exposed perch to deliver its song.

Description

5-6 1/2" (13-17 cm). A grayish, streaked sparrow with white outer tail feathers, narrow white eye ring, and a small patch of chestnut on bend of wing.

Voice

Song a slow series of 4 clear musical notes, the last 2 higher, ending in a descending series of trills-sometimes rendered as come-come-where-where-all-together-down-the-hill.

Nesting

4-6 white eggs, heavily spotted with brown, in a well-made cup of grass and rootlets concealed in grass on the ground.

Habitat

Fields, pastures, and roadsides in farming country.

Range/Migration

Breeds from British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia south to central California, Texas, Tennessee, and western North Carolina. Winters north to central California, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Long Island.