The Cape Sable seaside-sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) has disappeared from its only known breeding areas episodically since its discovery early this century. Systematic surveys across its range in the southern Everglades find the sparrow's range to be fragmented into six subpopulations. The sparrow population decreased by 58% between 1992 and 1995, with the near extinction of the western half of the population and the temporary local extinction of some eastern populations. Other similar grassland sparrows have populations that vary considerably from year to year. Yet the decline in the western subpopulation and the local extinction of some of the peripheral populations cannot be explained by natural variability alone. Hurricane Andrew passed over several subpopulations prior to the particularly poor year of 1993. However, the geographical and temporal patterns of subpopulation decline are not consistent with what would be expected following a hurricane. Frequent fires prevent successful breeding as does flooding during the breeding season. Better management can prevent frequent fires and episodic flooding. However, the long-term survival of the sparrow depends on managing the unanticipated risks that attend its small, fragmented population.
Additional publication details
Population dynamics of the endangered Cape Sable seaside-sparrow