About Them: A specific subspecies of the Grasshopper Sparrow that’s unique to the prairies of Florida. They have beautiful coloring with dark lining and spotting on their back surrounded by almost white edging. Then they have yellow above their eye and at the shoulder of their wing. They also have dark stripes across their crown with a light stripe that is almost white down the center. Their breast is lighter with no markings. You would most likely hear these birds instead of see them if you visited their habitat. You would hear an insect like call that rings out across the fields they are found in. Generally you will hear this in spring and early summer as males are advertising for a mate.
Their plight: This sparrow has suffered habitat loss, but additionally and perhaps worse now is the invasion of red fire ants. The sparrow nests on the ground so, if an ant colony is nearby it is able to decimate any sparrow babies.
Then recently they have discovered a protozoan parasite that attacks the birds organs and causes death. This is the kind of problem you see when species get to such low population size. If anything major hits, there is not room for rebound because almost all animals will likely be affected and there won’t be enough left to make a new population.
What we should consider: Species of Florida are under more pressure than most species. In fact the first bird to go extinct after the ESA was in place was a bird that only lived in Florida, the Dusky Seaside Sparrow. The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is really close to extinction in the wild very few are left, think under 50 if that. They did find unbanded birds in the spring of 2018. To bolster the Grasshopper Sparrow species and not letting this specialized subspecies go should matter.
What is being done: A breeding program has begun to help build back up the population and it is seeing success. You can see videos of fledglings on the the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow facebook page. Additionally they are setting up predator detectors around sparrow nests that are located so they can neutralize the threat. Habitat continues to be restored with controlled burns. Finding ways to battle the protozoan are also in the works.
How to help: Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife and waterways. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
The Florida Audubon did have a call for volunteers in 2013 when conservation of this sparrow began. Be on the look out for more opportunities like that. -> http://fl.audubon.org/news/citizen-scientists-needed-help-florida-grasshopper-sparrows
Further Reading, my sources:
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]
(this is less than I originally wanted to write, but I caught a cold, hoping for a rebound myself after some rest)