Vesper Sparrow
(Pooecetes gramineus)


Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Vesper Sparrow is an abundant species, reaching its highest densities in the southern Prairie Provinces. It is also found in suitable grassland and agricultural habitats across much of southern Canada. The Breeding Bird Survey shows that, on average, the national population has experienced a moderate decrease since 1970, both within Canada and throughout its North American range. The affinis subspecies of southwestern British Columbia, limited to only one nesting location in Canada, was assessed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada in 2006 (COSEWIC 2006g; reconfirmed in 2018), and listed under the Species at Risk Act in 2007. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2018Vesper Sparrow affinis subspecies
SARA (Canada)Endangered2007Vesper Sparrow affinis subspecies
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level
Vesper Sparrow affinis subspeciesLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada5,000,000 - 50,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early May and late May and ends in late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Likely more abundant today than before the European settlement period, the Vesper Sparrow likely benefited from conversion of forests to agricultural land and increased planted cover (McMaster and Davis 2001, Jones and Cornely 2002). Decreasing populations in some areas are likely the result of changes to farming practices and reversion of marginal farmlands to forestlands (Jones and Cornely 2002). The primary threat to the affinis subspecies is habitat degradation and loss (ECCC 2016). The subspecies has disappeared from some historic breeding locations, though it was likely never common in British Columbia (ECCC 2016). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other