Habitat Selection by Florida Grasshopper Sparrows in Response to Fire

Minimum population estimates of Florida grasshopper sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus) made using listening stations systematically located throughout a 2,374-ha portion of the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in central Florida ranged from 219-234 individuals over a 3-year period. The study area was divided into 3 units and 1 was burned each year. Grasshopper sparrow population density was related to the 3 burn regimes: <1 year post-burn, 1-2 years post-burn, and >2 years post-burn. Grasshopper sparrows did not utilize each burn regime in proportion to its occurrence (X2 = 21.86, df = 2, P < 0.001). Grasshopper sparrows preferred areas <1 year post-burn, avoided areas >2 years post-burn, and used the intermediate burn regime in proportion to its occurrence (P < 0.01). Grasshopper sparrows did not colonize areas of apparently suitable habitat that were spatially separated from the population by areas of unsuitable habitat. Recommendations for burning grasshopper sparrow habitat are presented. This study also suggests that experimental reintroduction of grasshopper sparrows into unoccupied habitat may be appropriate.

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