Published: December 27, 2017
Get ready to say goodbye to Florida’s rarest bird, the grasshopper sparrow. Federal officials say 2018 is the year we’ll learn whether the species will disappear from the wild. The odds are not looking good.
"There’s a significant chance that the birds might go extinct," said Larry Williams, who supervises the South Florida office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The grasshopper sparrow is generally regarded as the most endangered bird in the continental United States. If it goes extinct in spite of the $1 million spent to save it in recent years, it would be the first American bird in three decades to disappear.
The number living in the wild has dropped dramatically in recent years, due in part to a disease that has zoomed through their dwindling population. Last year biologists found 74 males and 40 females remaining in the Central Florida prairies where the birds nest. This year they found just 53 males and 22 females.
"This is probably the last year that we’ll have the birds in the landscape," said Paul Reillo, founding director of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation at Florida International University.