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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Vesper Sparrow -- Pooecetes gramineus

RANGE: Breeds from southern Mackenzie and central Saskatchewan to southern Quebec and Nova Scotia, south to eastern and southern California, central New Mexico, Kansas, and North Carolina. Winters from central California, central Texas, southern Illinois, and Connecticut south to Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and central Florida.

STATUS: Fairly common.

HABITAT: Favors sparsely vegetated dry uplands but also occurs in a variety of habitats throughout its range. In the West, inhabits open grasslands and sagebrush flats, pinyon-juniper associations, open meadows and farmlands, and low grassy areas of alpine and subalpine meadows. In the East, inhabits short-grass meadows, pastures, hayfields, country roadsides, prairie edges, blueberry barrens, coastal beachgrass, and, farther north, forest clearings and burned-over areas.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open areas with short herbaceous vegetation and conspicuous song perches.

NEST: Builds nest in a depression on the ground, frequently near small patches of bare ground, where the vegetation is low and sparse, or at the base of a dirt clod, clump of weeds, or tussock of grass, often well concealed by surrounding live or dead vegetation.

FOOD: Gleans insects and seeds from the ground and from weeds and grasses; also forages on waste grains.

REFERENCES: Berger in Bent 1968b, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, King in Bent 1968b, Vickery in Farrand 1983c.

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