In the late British author Ian Fleming’s first novel, “Casino Royale,” published in 1953, secret agent James Bond orders a Vesper martini. The character also orders the cocktail in the 2006 movie of the same name.
This week’s featured bird, the vesper sparrow, is not named after the drink.
In two recent columns concerning the Savannah sparrow and the song sparrow, I mentioned the similarities between the two and detailed the differences.
Well, let’s add this week’s bird to the duo and make it a sparrow trio! I hate to mention too many birds in a single column, so I have provided photos of all three birds for comparison.
The vesper sparrow sings its sweet song — a series of musical whistles and trills — well into twilight after most birds have calmed, which, according to the American Bird Conservancy, is roughly the same time as Catholic vespers services, which earned the bird its name.
The vesper sparrow is streaked like the Savannah and song sparrows. However, the song sparrow is darker and more boldly streaked.
One thing that separates the vesper sparrow from the Savannah and song sparrows is its prominent white eye rings and prominent outer tail feathers.
The vesper also has a small chestnut patch on each shoulder, but they’re sometimes hidden from view.
The vesper sparrow was once called the “bay-winged bunting,” due to those chestnut patches on the bends of its wings. Henry David Thoreau often wrote in his journal about these “bay-wings.”
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that Thoreau wrote about the bird’s song in an 1854 journal entry:
“I hear a bay-wing on the railroad fence sing — the rhythm — somewhat like char, (or here here), che che, chip, chip, chip (fast), chitter, chitter, chitter chit (very fast and jingling), tchea tchea (jinglingly). It has another strain, considerably different, but a second also sings the above. Two on different posts are steadily singing the same, as if contending with each other, notwithstanding the cold wind.”
The vesper sparrow is a winter visitor to Oklahoma — the southern half of Oklahoma. And, the Ada area is within that range. It pretty much winters in the southern fourth of the United States and well down into Mexico.
It breeds in the northern half of the United States and way up into Canada.
I once read, “Vesper sparrows can be found as far north as the southwestern corner of the Northwest Territories.” Huh?
The vesper sparrow is a ground-dwelling species. It inhabits open, grassy areas such as fields, pastures, meadows and roadsides. They prefer shorter grass to tall.
Vesper sparrows are monogamous. They breed in open grassy habitats in the northern half of United States and into Canada. The construct nests on the ground, which are well-hidden.
In colder months, vesper sparrows eat seeds of grasses and weeds. In warmer months, they also eat insects and spiders. Insects include grasshoppers, beetles, true bugs, caterpillars, moths, etc.
Odds and ends
• The American Bird Conservancy reports vesper sparrows are a beneficial species in agricultural areas, as the birds eat many crop-destroying insects and weed seeds.
Randy Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. He has been an avid birdwatcher, nature enthusiast and photographer for more than 40 years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.