Sunday, June 15, 2014

in passing

The last known dusky seaside sparrow died 27 years ago today, in 1987. His coda, the last beat of his avian heart, came either late in the evening June 15 or early June 16. (Some accounts use June 17, but that was probably the day it was reported.)

The species or subspecies (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens) was non-migratory with a small home range: the mashes dominated by broomgrass on Merritt Island and along the St. Johns, Banana and Indian rivers in Florida.

The last dusky, a male, was nicknamed "Orange" because of the band of that color it once wore. He lived out his final days in captivity, his last home was on Discovery Island at Disney World. Reclusive, he spent most of his time hidden in the tall grass at the bottom of his aviary. Alone, he rarely sang. To what purpose? There was no other dusky to serenade.

If you are it, the very last, the swan song and your species is about to vanish, what would you do?

For more info read, A Shadow and a Song by Mark Jerome Walters. An excellent account of the chain of events that led to population losses and the bungled attempts to save what was left of the dusky seaside sparrow.


pickwickianmom said...

Did they die from loss of habitat?

That's a very sad story and such a sweet little bird.

Did anyone ever record it's songs?

Stephen Lyn Bales said...


That's a long name. Are you Dutch?

Yes. It was primarily habitat loss. Florida will someday be developed coast-to-coast.

In his book, Walters details the sad chain of events: DDT, mosquito control and rapid urban development that led to dramatic population losses of the dusky seaside sparrow AND the badly botched recovery orchestrated by well-meaning but hapless wildlife officials that took years formulating a plan that came far, far, far too late.

Have you ever noticed that the more people you include in the decision-making process the longer it takes to make a decision?

I have not been able to find a recording of the dusky's song either on-line or otherwise.

Marie said...

We saw this precious bird on Discovery Island and I remember being so horribly sad for it and it's birdkind. I'm trying to think what year we went...maybe 86. I am so glad you posted this, because over time I forgot what kind of bird it was. Seeing the bird stirred in me such a sense of sadness for the things of our world...the lack of caring, the lack of responsibility for all that we have been given.