In 2020, we expanded the project with the deployment of archival GPS nanotags to track non-breeding season movements of Oregon Vesper Sparrows breeding in the Rogue Basin. We successfully captured 10 males at our Howard Prairie study site and placed GPS backpacks on them using a leg-loop harness.
The small population size of Oregon Vesper Sparrow is well-documented, but the causes of its at-risk status remain speculative. As with most migratory birds, declines may be caused by habitat factors on their breeding grounds, wintering grounds, or migration stopover areas.
Oregon Vesper Sparrow with color bands (c) Frank Lospalluto
In 2018, Klamath Bird Observatory began in-depth monitoring of the survival, nest success, and habitat preferences of Rogue Basin birds located near Howard Prairie, east of Ashland, Oregon. This research is being replicated by partners in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the Puget Lowlands in Washington
Vesper Sparrows are a medium-large sparrow approximately 15 cm long. They are grayish brown above and buffy below with brown streaks. They have a narrow white eye-ring, white outer tail feathers, and a rufous shoulder patch. The Oregon Vesper Sparrow subspecies cannot be determined by plumage or vocalization, but by geographic range.
The Vesper Sparrow is sometimes affectionately referred to as a “little brown job.” This is what birdwatchers call those streaky brown sparrows and dull-colored females that we all struggle with identifying. But if no one knows about this subtle songbird, how can it ever be protected?
Daniel Thiede, a local multimedia artist, is photographing and recording the project and putting together a short-film documentary. The documentary will be an engaging way to educate the public about this declining species.