Brevard Zoo releases nearly 50 Florida grasshopper sparrows after successful breeding season

released into their natural range to increase the population of this species

Brevard Zoo is pleased to announce that our critically endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow breeding season has come to an end and has been a resounding success. Forty-seven birds have been or will soon be released into their natural range to increase the population of this species. (picture Brevard Zoo)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Brevard Zoo is pleased to announce that our breeding season for the critically endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrows has come to an end and has been a resounding success.

Forty-seven birds have been or will soon be released into their natural range to increase the population of this species.

Our zoo is part of a collaborative conservation effort to save this species with the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, United States Air Force, US Fish, and Wildlife Service, and Archbold Biological Station.

Florida grasshopper sparrows are only found in a few areas of central and southern Florida. In fact, as of 2021, just over 100 members of their species have been found in their native range.

The breeding season began in the spring of this year when the males began signaling their interest in breeding to the females with a buzzing sound, and nest building and egg laying followed.

After several weeks, our first chicks hatched – and that was just the start of this incredible achievement.

The newly hatched chicks remained with their parents for 21 days, after which they were moved to another hidden habitat at the zoo and monitored to ensure their well-being before release.

Once matured and medically cleaned, each brood (or group) of chicks was released back into the grassland where Florida grasshopper sparrow populations live in their native range.

Once the chicks were separated, their parents would begin the breeding process of buzzing, nest building and laying again!

Each clutch varied in size – our largest group consisted of five eggs and our smallest was two eggs. One of our pairs alone produced 20 offspring during the breeding season! (picture Brevard Zoo)

Each clutch varied in size – our largest group consisted of five eggs and our smallest was two eggs. One of our pairs alone produced 20 offspring during the breeding season!

A surprise occurred when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contacted us to place two week-old orphan chicks that had been found in their native range abandoned by their parents.

Fortunately, at that time, we had a brood of chicks of the same age and we were able to accommodate them.

Also, fortunately, the parents didn’t miss a thing and started feeding them like their own chicks.

These two should be out in the next few weeks!

Our first breeding season for this species was extremely successful, and that’s in part thanks to our incredible conservation team who took care of it. Kelly Currier, the conservation coordinator, says the success was ultimate because the sparrows had everything they needed to feel safe.

“Reproduction takes a lot of energy from animals,” Kelly said.

“If they didn’t have enough plants, space, food, or adequate sounds, they might not have bred as frequently.”

Kelly went on to mention how important this achievement is for the future of this critically endangered species.

“Our success means we can further increase genetic diversity on the Prairies and help increase numbers even faster than before. Sparrows are in desperate need of this boost due to their dramatically low numbers in recent years. »

So what’s next for our Florida grasshopper sparrows? The breeding season should resume in the spring.

Most of our current breeding individuals will stay with us for the next season, but depending on the need to improve the genetic diversity of the species, we may have new passerines during the off-season breeding. We hope to continue our success for years to come in helping this species at risk!

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