Alberta Map
Alberta Map

Introduction

Over its decade-plus of operations, the ABMI has generated a comprehensive dataset on Alberta’s species, their habitats, and the extent and type of human footprint across the province. With this information, the ABMI has developed analyses to predict species' relative abundances and examine species' responses to vegetation and soil types, as well as human footprint in Alberta. These methods have been applied to hundreds of species; this profile provides summary results for one.

Habitat & Human Footprint Associations

The Vesper Sparrow is typically associated with grassland ecosystems but will live in other open habitat types or even sparse deciduous forests. It nests on the ground, typically in a shallow depression concealed by dense vegetation.

Species-habitat Associations in the Forested Region

Forested Region - Species Habitat Association Graph: Predicted species relative abundance (bars) as a function of vegetation and human footprint type in the forested region. Dots are added to forest types where harvesting occurs and show the predicted species abundance in cutblocks of various ages. Vertical lines represent 90% confidence intervals.

  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is highest in the grass / herb vegetation type and cultivated human footprint sites in the forested region.
  • Vesper Sparrow predicted abundance is generally low in all forest types in the forested region.

Species-habitat Associations in the Prairie Region

Non-Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Non-Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Prairie Region - Species Habitat Association Graph: Predicted species relative abundance (bars) in each soil type and human footprint type in the prairie region. Vertical lines indicate 90% confidence intervals. The presence/absence of trees greatly affects the presence and abundance of many species; therefore, separate figures are presented for treed and non-treed sites in the prairie region.

  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is greater at non-treed than at treed sites in the prairie region.
  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is highest in saline and rapid draining soil types as well as at cultivated human footprint sites and productive soils in the prairie region.

Relationship to Linear Footprint


Relationship to Linear Footprint in the Forest Region



Linear Footprint Graph: Species relative abundance predicted for habitat with no human footprint compared to habitat in which 10% of the area is converted to either soft or hard linear footprint.

  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to have a positive relationship with hard linear footprint and a slight, negative relationship with soft linear footprint in the forested region.

Relationship to Linear Footprint in the Prairie Region



Linear Footprint Graph: Species relative abundance predicted for habitat with no human footprint compared to habitat in which 10% of the area is converted to either soft or hard linear footprint.

  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to have a slight, positive relationship with hard linear footprint and a slight, negative relationship with soft linear footprint in the prairie region.

Impacts of Human Footprint

The Vesper Sparrow is sensitive to agricultural development including cultivation and the timing of hay harvest but is unaffected by heavy grazing. With its ability to live and breed on both native and non-native grasslands, it can tolerate habitat alteration. 

Human Footprint Effects in the Forested Region

Human Footprint Effects in the Forested Region

Sector effect graph: Changes to species relative abundance (number above or below bar) attributed to the footprint of five sectors: agriculture, forestry, energy, rural/urban footprint, and transportation. The y-axis shows the percent population change per unit area of the sector's footprint. The x-axis shows the total area occupied by each sector's footprint in the region. The areas of the sector-specific rectangle (equal to the unit effect multiplied by the area of footprint) is the total effect of the sector on the species relative abundance in the region.

  • All human footprint types are predicted to have positive effects on Vesper Sparrow relative abundance in the forested region.
  • Agriculture footprint has a very strong unit effect and strongest overall effect on the Vesper Sparrow, resulting in a predicted increase in relative abundance compared to reference conditions. Clearing forested habitat for agriculture creates habitat for the Vesper Sparrow in an area where habitat is typically unsuitable. 

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Sector effect graph: Changes to species relative abundance (number above or below bar) attributed to the footprint of five sectors: agriculture, forestry, energy, rural/urban footprint, and transportation. The y-axis shows the percent population change per unit area of the sector's footprint. The x-axis shows the total area occupied by each sector's footprint in the region. The areas of the sector-specific rectangle (equal to the unit effect multiplied by the area of footprint) is the total effect of the sector on the species relative abundance in the region.

  • Agriculture footprint has a positive unit effect and strongest overall effect on the Vesper Sparrow in the prairie region, resulting in a predicted increase in relative abundance compared to reference conditions.
  • All other human footprint types are predicted to negatively effect Vesper Sparrow relative abundance.

Predicted Relative Abundance

The Vesper Sparrow is found throughout Alberta's prairie habitats but is most common in the Grassland Natural Region.

Reference Conditions

  • The reference condition shows the predicted relative abundance of the Vesper Sparrow after all human footprint had been backfilled based on native vegetation in the surrounding area.

Current Conditions

  • The current condition is the predicted relative abundance of the Vesper Sparrow taking current human footprint (circa 2012) into account.

Difference Conditions

  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to be higher under current conditions compared to reference conditions throughout much of its range in Alberta, especially in the Parkland and Grassland Natural Regions.
  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to be lower under current conditions compared to reference conditions in localized areas around Calgary and Edmonton.

Other Issues

Data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate the Vesper Sparrow has experienced a 37% decline between 1966 and 2014, likely due to industrial farming practices such as chemicals, large-scale tillage, and early hay harvesting.

References & Credits

References & Credits

Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 2007. The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta: A Second Look. Federation of Alberta Naturalists. Edmonton, AB.

Jones, S.L., and J.E. Cornely. 2002. Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus). In: The Birds of North America, ed. P.G. Rodewald. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/vesspa. Accessed January 16, 2017.

Data Sources

Information from ABMI bird point counts was combined with information from other organizations and individuals:

  • Environment Canada (North American Breeding Bird Survey and Joint Oil Sands Monitoring programs)
  • Ecological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca (EMCLA)
  • Dr. Erin Bayne (University of Alberta)

Photo Credits

Photos: TBD

Recommended Citation

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute and Boreal Avian Modelling Project. 2018. Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus). ABMI Website: abmi.ca/home/data-analytics/biobrowser-home/species-profile?tsn=179366.

Additional ABMI Resources

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2016. ABMI Species Website Manual, Version: 2016-12-02. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: abmi.ca.

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2014. Manual for Species Modeling and Intactness, Version 2014-09-25. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: abmi.ca.

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2014. Terrestrial field data collection protocols (abridged version) 2016-05-18. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: abmi.ca.

Download ABMI Species and Habitat Data.

View ABMI Collaborations.

Back to Top

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute Logo, Small

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute ©2014  All Rights Reserved     |  Privacy Policy |  Terms of Use |  Our Photos |  Glossary