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The most endengered bird in US is making a slow comeback


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florida-grasshopper-sparrow-study.jpg?w=1280&h=852Ashleigh Blackford has seen her share of dramatic bird releases over the years. She vividly recalls California condors soaring high into the sky and San Clemente loggerhead shrikes fluttering free. The tiny Florida grasshopper sparrow, on the other hand, merely hopped out of an open screen and skittered along the ground, says Blackford, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist.

Still, it was a thrilling moment to witness: one of the most endangered birds in the continental U.S.—one that just two years ago seemed doomed to extinction—had begun a remarkable comeback.

No more than five inches long, Florida grasshopper sparrows have flat heads, short tails, and black and gray feathers that camouflage their nests, built in the low shrubs and saw palmetto of the state’s grassy prairies. 

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“This is an emergency, and the situation for this species is dire,” Larry Williams, head of the South Florida office of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Vero Beach, said at the time. “This is literally a race against time.”

[...] The hardest part was the uncertainty. “Five years ago, we didn’t know if we could raise these birds in captivity,” he says. “We didn’t know the right light-and-dark cycle for them. How much or what they needed to be fed, or even will they eat in captivity.”  

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Some 250 captive-bred grasshopper sparrows have been set free in Florida, released every few weeks, even through the pandemic. (Follow Nat Geo’s coronavirus coverage here.)

To the biologists’ delight, all of the captive-raised birds “behaved like wild birds,” Oteyza says. When hawks flew overhead, they knew to hide. And while some captive-bred birds mated with others of the same background, some mated with wild birds. Then the females laid eggs and tended them until they hatched—another milestone.

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Source - https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/captive-breeding-save-florida-grasshopper-sparrows 

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On 10/24/2021 at 12:53 PM, weed said:

So cute, looks like the birds that make nests in our bushes

Yes, they say the bird lookind 'ordinary' is part of the reason is endengered to being with unfortunately. It's not super distinctive or eye-catching so people don't care about it as much as they do about lions, tigers or condors.

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