On a late evening stroll in Jonathan Dickinson State Park we spotted several Florida Scrub Jays. The evening light was nice and the birds were so busy searching for food they “sorta” ignored me. I wish I could have gotten closer, but they were in the shrubs well off the walking path. I noticed some were banded and at least one didn’t seem to have a band.
The Florida scrub jay is one of the species of scrub jay native to North America. It is the only species of bird endemic to the U.S. state of Florida and one of only 15 species endemic to the United States. Because of this, it is heavily sought by birders who travel from across the country to observe this unique species. It is known to have been present in Florida as a distinct species for at least 2 million years, and is possibly derived from the ancestors of Woodhouse’s scrub jay, the inland forms of the western scrub jay. (2-wikipedia)
Relic Florida sand dunes left over from a time when sea levels were much higher are the only place in the world where you can find Florida scrub habitat. This extreme habitat born of the sea and maintained by fire is the only home of the Florida Scrub-Jay. Unfortunately, high, dry and well-drained land is prime habitat for housing subdivisions and orange groves too, and little scrub remains for the jays. The scrub still in existence has been fragmented, and as a result has not enjoyed the renewing effects of fire which keep the habitat healthy. As a result, scrub-jay habitat and scrub-jay numbers are dwindling.
The Florida Scrub-Jay was classified as a Threatened species by the state in 1975, and by the federal government in 1987, but these designations have failed to halt the population decline. By 1993, Florida Scrub-jay populations had declined an estimated 90%, to about 10,000 individuals. Since then, further, severe declines have been documented in some Scrub-jay populations in Brevard County and elsewhere. (1-Audubon)
To learn more about the Florida Scrub Jay go here: