Grasshopper sparrow, bachman's sparrow, henslow's sparrow, florida grasshopper sparrow, habitat, dry prairie, florida, diet, stable isotope, siar, siber


North American grassland birds show long-term population declines that generally exceed the declines of other bird groups. Efforts to conserve grassland birds require knowledge of diet and habitat requirements during both the breeding and nonbreeding periods of annual life cycles. This dissertation investigated sparrow habitat associations within two defined plant communities of the dry prairie ecosystem, the dry-mesic and wet-mesic prairie, for four prescribed fire treatments over two consecutive winters. Grasshopper and Henslow’s sparrows showed higher relative abundance in wet-mesic prairie and Bachman’s Sparrows were more abundant in dry-mesic prairie across all fire treatments. Abundances of Grasshopper and Bachman’s sparrows were best predicted by plant community association and secondly by time since fire; whereas for Henslow’s Sparrows, habitat and time since fire were equally important. Fall molt-period diets and diet overlap were modeled for resident Florida Grasshopper and Bachman’s sparrows using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of bird feathers and potential food sources, e.g., arthropods and seeds. Grasshoppers (Orthoptera, including a variety of species foraging on both C3 and C4 herbs), spiders, dragonflies, flies, beetles and weevils comprised the majority of the diets of adult and juvenile Florida Grasshopper Sparrows and Bachman’s Sparrows, but in differing proportions. Despite the similarity in reconstructed diets for the two sparrow species, analysis of diet overlap suggested that approximately half of the Florida Grasshopper Sparrows had diets consisting of higher trophic level prey than Bachman’s Sparrows. Winter diets and diet overlap among Grasshopper, Henslow’s, and Bachman’s sparrows were reconstructed using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of feathers and potential arthropod and seed food sources. Sparrows were captured and recaptured in winter iv 2007-2008 using systematic flush-netting, removing a tail feather at first capture and then removing the regrown feather when birds were recaptured. Winter diets of all three sparrows included a variety of arthropods, grass seeds, and sedge seeds, but Bachman’s Sparrow winter diets spanned greater trophic diversity than either of the migratory sparrows. Estimated diets of Henslow’s and Grasshopper sparrows differed from that of Bachman’s Sparrow but Henslow’s Sparrow diets did not differ from Grasshopper Sparrow diets. This is the first study of fall and winter sparrow diets in Florida based on stable isotopes and the first study in peninsular Florida on habitat associations of ground-dwelling sparrows.


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Graduation Date





Noss, Reed


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Conservation Biology; Ecology and Organismal Biology








Release Date

June 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic

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