Florida grasshopper sparrow

MyFWC.com / Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The clock is ticking for the highly-endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow, but a new project recently green-lit by a federal agency may offer some hope for avoiding extinction. Scientists believe there are roughly 200 of the tiny birds remaining in the wild. Two years ago, scientists found the lowest count of the birds in history: last year's numbers dipped even lower. 

      

AZRainman / Flickr Creative Commons

Fire ants are notorious Florida invasives, leaving a trail of painful welts and blisters in their wake. Those pesky exotic intruders also happen to be a serious threat to some of the state's most vulnerable endemic species. This includes the Florida grasshopper sparrow, which recently made the March/April cover of Audubon Magazine as "the most endangered bird in the continental United States." 

MyFWC.com / Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

A state agency is considering designating large tracts of state-owned lands as "surplus," including sections that are home to a near-extinct bird endemic to Florida. Surplus lands can be made available for public sale or trade, or used in ways that differ from their original intention as conservation lands.

MyFWC.com / Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

One of Florida's endemic species, the Florida grasshopper sparrow, is on the path to extinction. The bird lives only in the dry prairies south of Orlando and it's believed that less than 200 of the highly-specialized sparrows remain in the wild, though funding doesn't exist to adequately track the population. Part of the problem has been drumming up the public support -- and money -- necessary to study what has happened to the subspecies.