USFWS Announces Captive Breeding Program for the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow

April 18, 2013 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced the establishment of a captive breeding program for the Florida grasshopper sparrow, a small songbird endemic to the dry prairie region of southern Florida. Currently, it is known only on public lands at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park; the birds that were once numerous at Avon Park Air Force Range are now at critically low numbers. Information outside of public lands is lacking and no estimate exists for numbers of sparrows that may live there. The critical status of the sparrow may potentially affect projects that impact habitat considered suitable for this species by the USFWS within their consultation area in south Florida. Surveys may be recommended for project sites with dry prairie located on-site or nearby. Note that the transect survey protocol to confirm presence of the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow is a 3-event survey occurring once a year during the nesting season from April 1-June 15 with a minimum time of 2 weeks between each of the three survey events.

A project determined by the USFWS to potentially “take” the Florida grasshopper sparrow may trigger the threshold for “jeopardy”, since sparrows are at such low numbers. The USFWS would help formulate “Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives” (RPAs) for the project to avoid “take” of the species in this case.

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