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. 


Mist Netting

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.

Florida Grasshopper Sparrows wake up early, so biologists set up their mist nets just before the sunrise.

Florida Grasshopper Sparrows wake up early, so biologists set up their mist nets just before the sunrise.

Researchers have caught a bird and must take it from the net.

Researchers have caught a bird and must take it from the net.

Biologist Emily Angell works at freeing the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow from the net.

Biologist Emily Angell works at freeing the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow from the net.

The Florida Grasshopper must be held very carefully by a trained specialist.

The Florida Grasshopper must be held very carefully by a trained specialist.

 

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. 

Headlamps are often needed when taking measurements. Stephen Mugel (hands), Greg Thomspon, Marcel Villar, and Emily Angell work as a team in the early dawn light.

Headlamps are often needed when taking measurements. Stephen Mugel (hands), Greg Thomspon, Marcel Villar, and Emily Angell work as a team in the early dawn light.

 
This sparrow is recieving an identifying band. 

This sparrow is recieving an identifying band. 

 
Once in hand, the biologists will quickly measure bill and feather length, and the bird's weight.

Once in hand, the biologists will quickly measure bill and feather length, and the bird's weight.

Emily Angell measures the bill length of this Florida Grasshopper Sparrow.

Emily Angell measures the bill length of this Florida Grasshopper Sparrow.

 

Predators

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. 

Biologist Steve Glass checks a mammal trap for Spotted Skunks.

Biologist Steve Glass checks a mammal trap for Spotted Skunks.

 
Biologist Tina Hannon weighs one of the captured Spotted Skunks.

Biologist Tina Hannon weighs one of the captured Spotted Skunks.

Empty cages are loaded back on the vehicle.

Empty cages are loaded back on the vehicle.

 
After processing the skunk, the biologists will let it go.

After processing the skunk, the biologists will let it go.

 

Fire Management

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.

Land Manager, Kevin Main uses a driptorch during a prescribed fire as part of a habitat restoration project at Archbold Reserve.

Land Manager, Kevin Main uses a driptorch during a prescribed fire as part of a habitat restoration project at Archbold Reserve.

Just weeks after a prescribed fire at a Florida Grasshapper Sparrow site, green grass was growing and flowers blooming. 

Just weeks after a prescribed fire at a Florida Grasshapper Sparrow site, green grass was growing and flowers blooming.