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 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 higher at non-treed compared to treed sites in the prairie region.
  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is high across soil types and human footprint types, except the rural/urban human footprint, in the prairie region.

Relationship to Linear Footprint


Relationship to Linear Footprint in the Forested 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 negative relationship with hard linear footprint and 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 negative relationship with hard linear footprint and 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 some forms of habitat alteration. 

Human Footprint Effects in the Forested Region

Under-footprint Sector Effects

Human Footprint Effects in the Forested Region

Figure: Under-footprint Effects. Percentage change in Vesper Sparrow relative abundance inside areas that have been disturbed by each sector in the forested region. Dot above bar indicates change in abundance is greater than 100%. Refer to value above or below the bar for the estimated under-footprint effect.

To understand how the Vesper Sparrow is impacted by specific development activities, the under-footprint figure shows how Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to change within each sector's footprint compared to the habitat it replaced (Figure: Under-footprint Effects).

  • In the forested region, the relative abundance of Vesper Sparrow is predicted to be higher in agriculture footprint, and to a lesser extent forestry and rural/urban footprints, compared to the habitat each footprint replaces.
  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to be lower in energy and transportation footprints compared to the habitat each footprint replaces.

Regional Sector Effects

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Figure: Regional Sector Effects. Percentage change in Vesper Sparrow relative abundance throughout the forested region due to the respective footprints of each sector. Refer to value above or below the bar for the estimated regional effect.

The Regional Sector Effects graph shows the predicted change in the total relative abundance of the Vesper Sparrow across the forested region due to each sector's footprint, considering the: area of the footprint in the region, under-footprint effect, and habitat types impacted by a particular sector (Figure: Regional Sector Effects).

  • Agriculture footprint has the strongest positive population effect in the forested region, resulting in a higher predicted relative abundance of Vesper Sparrow at the regional scale.
  • The remaining industrial sectors have much smaller population effects on the Vesper Sparrow at the regional scale.

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Under-footprint Sector Effects

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Figure: Under-footprint Effects. Percentage change in Vesper Sparrow relative abundance inside areas that have been disturbed by each sector in the prairie region. Dot above bar indicates change in abundance is greater than 100%. Refer to value above or below the bar for the estimated under-footprint effect.

To understand how the Vesper Sparrow is impacted by specific development activities, the under-footprint figure shows how Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to change within each sector's footprint compared to the habitat it replaced (Figure: Under-footprint Effects).

  • In the prairie region, the relative abundance of Vesper Sparrow is predicted to be higher in agriculture footprint, and to a lesser extent forestry footprint, compared to the habitat each footprint replaces.
  • Vesper Sparrow relative abundance is predicted to be lower in rural/urban, energy and transportation footprints compared to the habitat each footprint replaces.

Regional Sector Effects

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Figure: Regional Sector Effects. Percentage change in Vesper Sparrow relative abundance throughout the prairie region due to the respective footprints of each sector. Refer to value above or below the bar for the estimated regional effect.

The Regional Sector Effects graph shows the predicted change in the total relative abundance of the Vesper Sparrow across the prairie region due to each sector's footprint, considering the: area of the footprint in the region, under-footprint effect, and habitat types impacted by a particular sector (Figure: Regional Sector Effects).

  • Agriculture footprint has the strongest positive population effect in the prairie region, resulting in a higher predicted relative abundance of Vesper Sparrow at the regional scale.
  • The remaining industrial sectors have much smaller population effects on the Vesper Sparrow at the regional scale.

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 of the prairie region.

Other Issues

Data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate the Vesper Sparrow has experienced a 35% decline in Canada between 1970 and 2017 (Smith et al. 2019), 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.

Smith, A.C., Hudson, M-A.R. Aponte, V., and Francis, C.M. 2019. North American Breeding Bird Survey - Canadian Trends Website, Data-version 2017. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0H3.

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. 2019. 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.

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Niki Wilson Edited for format, copy and readability Jan-4-2017

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The Vesper Sparrow, a large and inconspicuous songbird, is a summer resident of Alberta's grassland habitats. It has been detected in all natural regions in Alberta, but is most abundant in the Grassland and Parkland Natural Regions.

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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.

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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 some forms of habitat alteration. 

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

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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.

Smith, A.C., Hudson, M-A.R. Aponte, V., and Francis, C.M. 2019. North American Breeding Bird Survey - Canadian Trends Website, Data-version 2017. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0H3.

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