FIELD IDENTIFICATION: The Vesper Sparrow is a winter resident of Wise County. The bird is overall gray and gray-brown streaked. Good field marks are white edges on the tail (when visible and in flight, see first photo below), white eye ring (not always very distinct, such as in first photo), and pale malar (or submustachial stripe), which connects with the pale edges of the auriculars. The lesser wing coverts are chestnut, and quite distinct when visible, but are hard to impossible to see in most cases.
The Vesper Sparrow is most similar to the Savannah Sparrow. The Savannah Sparrow is generally more "colorful", and less "two-toned". The Vesper Sparrow also lacks a median crown stripe. When both species are together, the Vesper Sparrow's larger size is visible, too. I have found that when I became familiar with the two species, they look completely different.
Field I.D. by Claire Curry
Photo by Claire Curry, December 2000
Photo by Mary Curry, March 2001