ORLANDO, Fla. — Biologists say surveys of endangered Florida grasshopper sparrows in the wild have been discouraging.

The Orlando Sentinel reports 40 females and 74 males were counted last year. This year, however, only 22 females and 53 males were counted.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the bird could disappear from its native habitat within two years, despite conservation efforts.

Larry Williams, the agency’s supervisor for ecological services in Florida, said the likelihood for a sustaining a wild population of Florida grasshopper sparrows is “low.”

The bird lives in remote, treeless prairies in central Florida.

Last year, the Rare Species Conservatory in Palm Beach County began breeding Florida grasshopper sparrows in captivity. Director Paul Reillo says the project has been challenged by the emergence of a deadly disease linked to parasites in the birds’ guts.

Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/