Hey guys, welcome back. Today a streaky little sparrow known as the vesper sparrow. The word vesper comes from the Latin for evening, and these little brown birds love to sing as the day is nearing its end. At first glance, they look very similar to other sparrows we’ve covered before such as the Lincoln’s or Savannah but as with most sparrows, it’s the subtle differences where the vesper stands out.
The vesper sparrow is almost entirely streaked, even on the top of its head where many streaked sparrows aren’t. They do have a couple defining traits unique to them: a thin white eyering, and white tail feathers that flash in flight. Additionally, they have a chestnut-colored shoulder patch, but this can be very difficult to see. Another thing working in your favor is that fact that vesper sparrows tend to be less shy and forage out in the open. They prefer grasslands, and will often sing atop shrubs.
My sighting of this sparrow came in Central Park in spring of 2018. One had shown up at the Great Hill, an area in the north end of the park. I had the day off, and beautiful weather and decided to do an entire park birding journey from top to bottom. I ran into some of the local birders I had gotten to know over the years and got the intel that the vesper was still there. When I got to the top of the Great Hill, I saw a group of birders watching the bird from a distance. It was cool to see to be sure, and it was one of those moments when a rare (for Central Park at least) bird showed up in the park and all the birders flocked (pun intended) to see it. The kind of moment that made birding in that park special. It would be the last time I experienced it, as I was moving to St. Louis a few months from then. It’s also the day I told some of those birding friends I had made that I was leaving. It was a bittersweet moment for sure. And while I’ve had other rare birds and been one of the ones who’ve flocked to see them since, it’s never been the same as the Central Park birding community was. I would see only three more life birds in the park before I moved, and they are the next on the list. The first was a barn owl, which we’ll talk about next time. See you then.