This blog covers some questions we have received about Grasshopper Sparrows in general, and how the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow relates to them.
Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum) occur across the US and there are populations in Central America and the West Indies. There are different opinions on how many distinct subspecies exist, but the distinctiveness of the Florida race, A. s. floridanus, is agreed upon. Another subspecies of Grasshopper Sparrows (A. s. pratensis) breeds in the northern US and spends the winter here, but does not breed here like the Florida subspecies does. In general, Florida’s subspecies is smaller, darker on top and paler underneath.
Paul Miller, biologist at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park furnished this photo of pratensis (GRSP) and floridanus (FGSP) together, and describes them as:
“The obvious and simple distinction is that FGSP (on left) is much darker overall. More specifically, the feathers of the coverts, tertiaries, scapulars, and back are much blacker with whiter edging. The same feathers on the GRSP are lighter with buffy edging. The feathers of the nape on the FGSP are darker. The FGSP’s median crown stripe is also whiter while that of the GRSP is buffier. Not so obvious is the fact that the FGSP’s bill is heavier/larger.”
Most importantly, the Florida subspecies lives here all the time, and is “ours.” It is wonderful for Florida to have this unique bird, but that blessing also means that responsibility for managing this bird’s landscape ends up being entirely our own.
And by the way, this photo was taken while banding sparrows on the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. During winter, the Prairie hosts “sparrow drives” to catch and band sparrows in mist nets, giving a great opportunity for volunteers to help with sparrow research and monitoring, and to see sparrows and other prairie birds in the hand. Stay tuned to our web page for dates of these events.
If you have not yet signed our petition to save the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, please click here and then share it with your friends and family.