FGSOPhoto by: Elizabeth Abraham

Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Featured in New Report Highlighting Conservation Strategies Saving Imperiled Wildlife

December 6, 2023

Archbold Biological Station biologists and collaborators are helping to save one of the most imperiled birds in the United States, the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, through captive breeding and re-introduction. This important work is showcased in a new report released this week by the Endangered Species Coalition. The new report, ‘Ten Stories of Hope: The Endangered Species Act at 50’ highlights ten case studies of conservationists using different strategies to protect and recover imperiled fish, bird, plants and mammals in the U.S.

Archbold, working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Defense, and many collaborators in the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group, have released more than 300 sparrows to the prairies on Avon Park Air Force Range since 2021.

According to Elizabeth Abraham, who leads the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow work at the Range for Archbold, "The sparrow population on the Range was six times bigger in 2022 than it was in 2021. We found more than 7 times as many nests, and 93% of the chicks produced in 2022 had at least one parent that was from the captive breeding program." Archbold biologists and many partners from the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group continue to release sparrows from the captive breeding program to other protected, managed areas. While the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is still imperiled, biologists have increasing hope for the species.

As the Endangered Species Act turns 50 years old this year, the report tells the stories of people, agencies and organizations who are working to recover species the Act protects, including the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, Chinook Salmon, and the Sea Otter, to name a few. The report showcases conservation methods that save species, from protecting migration corridors and nesting sites to removing dams and restoring habitat—and more. Stories about engineering innovative bat houses in Miami and botanists rappelling cliffs as they hunt for rare plants in Hawaii. The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow effort is innovative for its potential to integrate conservation and sustainable ranching. The bird—among the rarest in North America—is increasingly being found on working cattle ranches and Archbold scientists are developing management strategies that can benefit both the species and ranchers.

sparrow release croppedPhoto by: Zach Forsburg

Caption: Greg Thompson and Elizabeth Abraham monitor a Florida Grasshopper Sparrow release from a distance using spotting scopes.

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1973, after it had passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and 355-4 in the House. The immensely popular, successful, and historic piece of legislation has been at the core of our country’s commitment to protecting wildlife and the natural world for our children and grandchildren. 99% of species protected under the Endangered Species Act have avoided extinction, including the Humpback Whale, Grizzly Bear, and Bald Eagle. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, Gray Whales still swim our coasts, Peregrine Falcons still soar our skies, and American Alligators still call Florida home.

“This report offers hope that we can restore habitats and safeguard imperiled animals and plants,” said Susan Holmes, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “As demonstrated by the extraordinary efforts of dedicated field researchers, citizen scientists, and volunteers working to save species throughout the country, the Endangered Species Act works!”