Florida’s Brevard Zoo has welcomed a clutch of grasshopper sparrows, which the zoo said will help boost the species’ critically endangered population.
The two sparrow chicks hatched on April 10 after incubating in their eggs for just 10 days, according to an email from the Brevard Zoo. The babies were born to parents Peg and Eddie, who were matched by a pair of “Florida grasshopper sparrow experts,” the zoo explained in a news release.
The newborns will stay with their parents for around 21 days, then move to another behind-the-scenes habitat, where zoo staff will continue to monitor their health, the release said. Finally, they will be released into their native habitat in Central Florida to help bolster the bird’s tiny population.
There were just over 100 grasshopper sparrows in their native range as of 2021, the zoo reported. The zoo released 43 captive-born sparrows into the wild last year.
The birds, which reach around 5 inches in length as adults, are mainly threatened due to habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The sparrows traditionally make their homes in open prairies. But as prairies in central Florida have been converted to agricultural lands, the birds have lost crucial segments of habitat.
Disease, limited genetic diversity, and nonnative fire ants which invade their nests have also contributed to the population decline, according to the zoo.
The chicks have already received their first veterinary exam and been adorned with tiny colored bands on their legs, which will allow biologists to track and study them once they’re released, the zoo added.
More adorable chicks might be coming soon: Three other pairs of Florida grasshopper sparrows at the zoo have also been matched and are at different stages of the nesting process, according to the release.