Pooecetes gramineus
(Vesper Sparrow)

Order: Passeriformes
Order Description: Passerines
Family: Emberizidae
Family Description: Blackbirds, Orioles, & Sparrows

Physical Description:
5-6 1/2" (13-17 cm). Rough, unkempt appearance due to the dark feathers that protrude from a light breast; also black and brown feathers that do not lay flat on back and wings. Streaked head with white eyering. "rufousClick word for definition shoulder patches and white outer tail feathers."

Similar Species- Pipits, immature Lark Sparrow, Chestnut-collared and McCown's longspurs, Smith's Longspur, Lapland Longspur, female Lark Bunting.

Song begins with 2-3 throating whistles followed by trilled notes and a rapid melody.

Breeds across portions of Canada, south to eastern and southern California, central Nevada, southwestern Utah, Arizona, central New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Winters in central California, southwestern U.S., and portions of eastern U.S., south to southern Mexico, Gulf Coast and central Florida.

Found in shrub steppeClick word for definition, grasslands, savannas, weedy pastures, fields, sagebrush, arid scrub, and woodland clearings. Idaho study found species was more abundant in prescribed burn areas of juniper than in old growth or clearcut.

Feeds on seeds, waste grain, and insects.

Builds cup-shaped nest on ground in excavated depression. Forages on ground. May bathe in dirt. Female may engage in distraction displays. Species is one of 7 neotropical migrants thought to be declining in Idaho.

Both sexes (usually female) incubateClick word for definition 3-5 eggs (sometimes 6) for 11-13 days. Young leave nest 7-12 days after hatching. Female may produce 2-3 broodsClick word for definition/yr.

Element Code: ABPBX95010
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4,NTMB
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
McCoy, M. 1993. Breeding bird survey of clearcut, prescribed burn, and seral/old growth stands of western juniper. USDI Bur. Land Manage., Boise District, Challenge Cost Share Project Report, Boise. 19pp.

Photo by C. S. Robbins. ©2002.
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.