Pooecetes gramineus - (Gmelin, 1789)
Vesper Sparrow
Other English Common Names: vesper sparrow
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Pooecetes gramineus (Gmelin, 1789) (TSN 179366)
French Common Names: bruant vespéral
Spanish Common Names: Gorrión Cola Blanca
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103115
Element Code: ABPBX95010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 10757

© Dick Cannings

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Passerellidae Pooecetes
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Pooecetes gramineus
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 04Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range in North America; large population size; major regional decline in eastern North America, due to reforestation, urbanization, and changing agricultural practices.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (22Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S4N), Arizona (S5), Arkansas (S3N), California (SNR), Colorado (S5), Connecticut (S1B), Delaware (S3B), District of Columbia (S3N), Florida (SNRN), Georgia (S4), Idaho (S5B), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S4B), Iowa (S4B,S4N), Kansas (S2B), Kentucky (S1B), Louisiana (S4N), Maine (S3S4B), Maryland (S4), Massachusetts (S1S2B,S3N), Michigan (S4), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNRB), Montana (S5B), Navajo Nation (S5B), Nebraska (S5), Nevada (S4B), New Hampshire (S2S3B), New Jersey (S1B,S2N), New Mexico (S5B,S4N), New York (S3B), North Carolina (S2B,S2N), North Dakota (SNRB), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S4N), Oregon (S4B), Pennsylvania (S4B), Rhode Island (SHB,S1N), South Carolina (SNRN), South Dakota (S5B), Tennessee (S1B,S4N), Texas (S5), Utah (S5B,S2N), Vermont (S2S3B), Virginia (S4), Washington (S4B), West Virginia (S3B,S2N), Wisconsin (S2S3B), Wyoming (S5B,S5N)
Canada Alberta (S5B), British Columbia (S5B), Manitoba (S5B), New Brunswick (S2B,S2M), Northwest Territories (SU), Nova Scotia (S2B), Ontario (S4B), Prince Edward Island (S1S2B), Quebec (S3), Saskatchewan (S5B)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):PS:E
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Breeding range extends primarily from east-central and southern British Columbia eastward across southern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south to eastern and southern California, central Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee, and North Carolina (Jones and Cornely 2002). Winter range extends across the southern United States from central California to South Carolina, and south to southern Baja California, southern Oaxaca, southern Tamaulipas, U.S. Gulf Coast, and Florida, with much smaller numbers wintering in areas farther north and south (Jones and Cornely 2002).

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a large number of populations.

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 1,000,000. Rich et al. (2004) estimated population size at 30,000,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)
Viability/Integrity Comments: Many populations, excluding most of those in eastern North America, appear to have at least good estimated viability.

Overall Threat Impact: Low
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Declines in eastern North America appear to be a result of (1) reforestation and urbanization of grasslands and (2) agriculture practices, such as removal of hedgerows and more frequent mowing and haying (Jones and Cornely 2002). This species readily nests in agricultural areas (given compatible practices) and does not require pristine conditions.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: BBS data indicate that the species is undergoing a slow decline that may be less than 10% over 10 years or three generations. Declines are widespread but pervasive in eastern North America.

Long-term Trend: Unknown
Long-term Trend Comments: Long-term trend over the past 200 years is unknown. During the nineteenth century, the range expanded in eastern North America as forests were cleared for farming, and the species became relatively numerous in many areas where it was rare before European settlement (Jones and Cornely 2002). Since the 1940s, many farms have been abandoned and land has reverted to forest or developed for housing, resulting in vesper sparrow population declines in much of the east (Jones and Cornely 2002).

Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a significant survey-wide decline averaging 1.0% per year during 1966-2007 and a significant survey-wide decline averaging 0.8% per year during 1980-2007. The decline for 1966-2007 amounts to 28% for this time period.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends primarily from east-central and southern British Columbia eastward across southern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south to eastern and southern California, central Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee, and North Carolina (Jones and Cornely 2002). Winter range extends across the southern United States from central California to South Carolina, and south to southern Baja California, southern Oaxaca, southern Tamaulipas, U.S. Gulf Coast, and Florida, with much smaller numbers wintering in areas farther north and south (Jones and Cornely 2002).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NS, NT, ON, PE, QC, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe 2005; NatureServe, 2002; NatureServe, 2005; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Hartford (09003)*, Litchfield (09005)*, New Haven (09009), Tolland (09013)*
KY Boone (21015)*, Bourbon (21017), Bracken (21023)*, Campbell (21037)*, Carroll (21041)*, Carter (21043)*, Franklin (21073)*, Gallatin (21077)*, Grant (21081)*, Greenup (21089)*, Harrison (21097)*, Kenton (21117)*, Nicholas (21181), Owen (21187)*, Pendleton (21191)*, Robertson (21201)*, Scott (21209)*, Woodford (21239)*
MA Barnstable (25001), Bristol (25005), Essex (25009), Franklin (25011), Hampden (25013), Hampshire (25015), Middlesex (25017), Plymouth (25023), Suffolk (25025)*, Worcester (25027)
NC Ashe (37009), Avery (37011), Buncombe (37021)*, Haywood (37087), Mitchell (37121), Watauga (37189)
NH Belknap (33001), Carroll (33003), Cheshire (33005), Grafton (33009), Hillsborough (33011), Merrimack (33013), Rockingham (33015), Strafford (33017), Sullivan (33019)
NJ Atlantic (34001), Bergen (34003), Burlington (34005), Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Gloucester (34015), Hunterdon (34019), Mercer (34021), Middlesex (34023), Monmouth (34025), Morris (34027), Ocean (34029), Passaic (34031), Salem (34033), Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
OR Benton (41003), Clackamas (41005)*, Lane (41039)*, Linn (41043)*, Marion (41047)*, Polk (41053)*
PA Berks (42011)*, Monroe (42089)*, Pike (42103)*, Schuylkill (42107)*
RI Washington (44009)*
TN Carter (47019), Cocke (47029), Johnson (47091), Stewart (47161)
VT Addison (50001), Franklin (50011)
WA King (53033), Pierce (53053), San Juan (53055), Snohomish (53061), Thurston (53067)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Saco (01060002)+, Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Merrimack (01070002)+, Contoocook (01070003)+, Nashua (01070004)+, Concord (01070005)+, Merrimack (01070006)+, Waits (01080103)+, Black-Ottauquechee (01080106)+, Middle Connecticut (01080201)+, Miller (01080202)+, Deerfield (01080203)+, Chicopee (01080204)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Westfield (01080206)+, Farmington (01080207)+*, Charles (01090001)+, Cape Cod (01090002)+, Pawcatuck-Wood (01090005)+*, Housatonic (01100005)+*
02 Rondout (02020007)+, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Raritan (02030105)+, Lackawaxen (02040103)+*, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+*, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Lehigh (02040106)+*, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Schuylkill (02040203)+*, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+
04 Otter Creek (04150402)+, Missiquoi River (04150407)+, Lake Champlain (04150408)+
05 Upper New (05050001)+, Little Scioto-Tygarts (05090103)+*, Ohio Brush-Whiteoak (05090201)+*, Middle Ohio-Laughery (05090203)+*, Licking (05100101)+*, South Fork Licking (05100102)+, Lower Kentucky (05100205)+*, Lower Cumberland (05130205)+*, Red (05130206)+
06 South Fork Holston (06010102)+, Watauga (06010103)+, Upper French Broad (06010105)+, Pigeon (06010106)+, Nolichucky (06010108)+
17 Middle Fork Willamette (17090001)+*, Coast Fork Willamette (17090002)+*, Upper Willamette (17090003)+, North Santiam (17090005)+*, South Santiam (17090006)+*, Middle Willamette (17090007)+*, Yamhill (17090008)+*, Molalla-Pudding (17090009)+*, Clackamas (17090011)+*, Upper Chehalis (17100103)+, San Juan Islands (17110003)+, Sauk (17110006)+, Snoqualmie (17110010)+, Nisqually (17110015)+, Deschutes (17110016)+, Puget Sound (17110019)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A songbird (sparrow).
Reproduction Comments: In Iowa, began establishing territories in second week of April. Clutch size usually is 3-5, sometimes 6. Both sexes (usually female) may incubate eggs for 11-13 days. Young leave nest 7-12 days after hatching. Individual females generally produce 2-3 broods per year.
Ecology Comments: In Iowa, average territory size was 2.34 ha (Rodenhouse and Best 1994).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: This species migrates in flocks (25-30 or fewer), arrives in nesting areas in the northern U.S. and southern Canada in March-April (Terres 1980).
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral
Habitat Comments: Habitats include plains, prairies, dry shrublands, savannas, weedy pastures, fields, sagebrush, arid scrub, and woodland clearings (AOU 1983). In Iowa, breeding territories were along fencerows between agricultural fields (Rodenhouse and Best 1994).

Nests are on the ground, often in a small depression near a clump of grass (Harrison 1978).

Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds on seeds, waste grain, and insects. Forages on the ground; sometimes takes food items from low foliage. Forages along fencerows, in weedy areas, etc. In North Dakota, grasshoppers were the principal food brought to week-old nestlings (Adams et al. 1994).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 16 centimeters
Weight: 27 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Restoration Potential: Suggested restoration guidelines are to plant native warm-season grasses in old fields and to provide undisturbed sparse vegetation and song perches along borders of crops (Jones and Vickery 1997).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Minimum grassland size is 30 acres (Jones and Vickery 1997).
Management Requirements: Breeding success probably would be greater in agricultural areas if the number of tillage operations was reduced and if crop residue was retained on fields (Rodenhouse and Best 1983).

In Saskatchewan, after an October prescribed fire, showed a preference for the burned area in the first year after the fire (Pylypec 1991). Jones and Vickery (1997) suggest burning in early spring or late fall; burn 20-30% of area annually in grasslands > 60 acres; do not burn more than 50-60% of area in any year for grasslands < 60 acres.

In North Dakota, reduction in grasshopper densities on vesper sparrow territories did not reduce survival or growth of nestlings compared to control areas; sparrows apparently compensated for reduced food by foraging farther from the nest (Adams et al. 1994). Nesting areas should be unmowed during breeding season; however, frequently mowed areas are favored for foraging. Tolerates moderate grazing which maintains 20-40% of vegetation at 10 inches (Jones and Vickery 1997).

Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 19Mar2009
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 19Mar2009
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Jones, A.L., and P.D. Vickery. 1997. Conserving grassland birds: managing agricultural lands including hayfields, crop fields, and pastures for grassland birds. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, MA.

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