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BIRD OF THE WEEK
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pooecetes gramineus
POPULATION: 34 million
HABITAT: Breeds and winters in dry grasslands and fields
The Vesper Sparrow’s sweet song, a combination of clear whistles and trills, can often be heard at twilight — roughly the same time as Catholic vespers services, which earned the bird its name. Some would call this species a “little brown job” at a glance, but with a keen eye, it’s not difficult to note a few distinguishing features: white outer tail feathers, a white eye-ring, and a chestnut shoulder patch.
Vesper Sparrows are fairly adaptable; for example, they may nest on reclaimed mine sites or in newly burned areas. But their overall population is declining due to habitat loss on both breeding and wintering grounds. Modern farming practices, including pesticide use, hedgerow clearing, and early hay harvesting, have also been detrimental to this species.