Oregon Vesper Sparrows are a prime example of what birders call “little brown jobs” – small, drab, hard-to-identify birds that we sometimes overlook. But this little brown job is an imperiled subspecies unique to the Pacific Northwest, one that serves as an indicator of the health of our grassland ecosystems, and needs our attention and protection. With its populations small and declining, the Oregon Vesper Sparrow has recently been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Klamath Bird Observatory is undertaking a multi-year, full life cycle study to help determine the causes of its decline – always a challenge for a migratory bird that can be impacted by events on their breeding, migratory stop-over, or overwintering grounds. However, new technologies such as miniaturized GPS tags and the Motus Wildlife Tracking System are starting to uncover the secrets of where these birds go when they’re away from our study sites. Dr. Sarah Rockwell will share some recent research on this unique at-risk subspecies, including what we’ve learned from detailed nesting studies and new migration tracking technology.
About the Speaker
Dr. Rockwell is a Research Biologist at Klamath Bird Observatory based in Ashland. She joined KBO in 2013 after completing her doctorate at the University of Maryland and Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, where she stud-ed the ecology of the then-endangered Kirtland’s Warbler in her home state of Michigan. She currently studies avian response to habitat restoration to improve conservation and land management. She also leads research on specific imperiled species, including Oregon Vesper Sparrow and Western Purple Martin. She lives in Ashland with her husband and daughter.
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