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First Captive-Raised Florida Grasshopper Sparrows Released In The Wild Now Are Breeding

Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Wildlife managers are celebrating a significant milestone in a more than $2 million effort to rescue North America’s most endangered bird from extinction. 

After the first captive-raised Florida grasshopper sparrows were released last year to the wild, some now are beginning to breed.   

Less than two months into the breeding season at least two captive-raised Florida grasshopper sparrows have fledged young on the Central Florida prairie, their native habitat. 

Mary Peterson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s a big achievement in a groundbreaking effort: Never before has a sparrow species been bred in captivity and released. 

“When we released them we had hopes, but we didn’t really know what would happen, if they would act like normal birds, if they would forage, if they would make it through the winter, and if they did if they would behave normally during the breeding season.” 

At last count some 80 Florida grasshopper sparrows were left on the Central Florida prairie, the only place on Earth where they are found in the wild. 

About 100 were released last year, and already this year 50 have been released.

Ashleigh Blackford of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the milestone is good news for other species.

“One of the things that we’ve kept in mind as we’ve been learning the lessons, learning how to bring the Florida grasshopper sparrow into captivity and breed it successfully, is that this work ultimately might be needed for other species like the Cape Sable seaside sparrow.”  



Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.