Bird Identification – Vesper Sparrow

To name this little dingy sparrow that haunts the open fields and dusty roadsides, you must notice the white feather on each side of his tail as he spreads it and flies before you to alight upon a fence. Like the song sparrow, this cousin has some fine dark streaks on his throat and breast. If you get near enough you will notice that his wing coverts, which are a bright chestnut brown, make the rest of his sparrow plumage look particularly pale and dull. Some people call him the bay-winged bunting; others, the grass finch, because he nests, like the meadow-lark and many other foolish birds, on the ground where mice, snakes, mowing machines and cats often make sad havoc of his young family.

The field sparrow, as we have seen, prefers neglected old fields overgrown with bushes, but the vesper sparrow chooses more broad, open, breezy, grassy country. When busy picking up insects and seed on the ground, he takes no time for singing, but keeps steadily at work, unlike the vireos that sing between bites. With him music is a momentous matter to which he is quite willing to devote half an hour at a time. He usually mounts to a fence rail or a tree before beginning the repetitions of his lovely, serene vesper which is most likely to be heard about sunset, or at sunrise, if you are not a sleepy-head. Like the rose-breasted grosbeak, he has the delightful habit of singing through the early hours of the summer night.