Scientific Monitoring and Management
Four separate wild populations of Florida Grasshopper Sparrows remain. Wildlife biologists monitor each of the populations, while land managers make sure their habitat is in good condition.
To catch adult male Florida Grasshopper Sparrows, a team of wildlife biologists setup mist nets before sunrise. The team then hides while the lead researcher plays audio recordings of male calls. If the team is lucky, a male will fly into the net. If a bird gets near the net, the team will fan our around it and "drive" the bird into the net by walking toward the net and making noise.
Banding & Measuring
Catching a sparrow is the first step. Next, the biologists must process or "work up" the bird by taking a variety of measurements and adding identifying bands.
The chicks of ground nesting birds make an easy male for predators that can find them. Florida Grasshopper Sparrows require large treeless areas, because trees and tall shrubbery bring more nest robbers. In order to better understand the effect of nest predators and protect the remaining sparrows, researchers are setting up wildlife cameras, putting fences around nests, and studying one of the birds most frequent nest predators, the Spotted Skunk. At Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area a series of live traps are being used to catch and document the Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius population.
Florida is the lightening strike capital of the USA, which means that many of its wildlands are maintained by fire. If fire is removed, treeless prairies may become savanna or forest. For a species like the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, those trees would bring in too many predators for the bird to sustain its numbers. Unfortunately, wildfires can be dangerous and destructive for people. Prescribed fires, also called controlled burns, offer a way to prevent wildlfires while helping ecosystems. Prescribed fires are the most important tool biologists have to protect the wild populations of Florida Grasshopper Sparrows.