Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
The Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) is 10 to 12 inches long and weighs only two and half ounces. It is the size of a mockingbird and it is a blue and grey colored bird. The back and the belly of the scrub-jay is a pale grey in contrast to the pale blue found on the head, neck, nape and tail. The Florida scrub-jay is similar in appearance to the common blue jay, but does not have a crest, black bars and white tipped feathers.
There is little difference between the male and female scrub-jay. The only difference between the juveniles and the adults is that the juveniles lack the blue coloring on their crown and nape. To date the oldest reported scrub-jay is 15 and half years, but it is not often that they live that long.
As indicated by the name of the Florida scrub-jay, it can be found only in peninsular Florida; although historically the scrub-jay could be found in over 39 counties south of and including, Gilchrist, Levy, Clay, Alachua and Duval. They are now officially extinct in 9 of these counties, which includes Alachua, Dade, Gilchrist, Broward, Clay, Duval, St. Johns and Hendry Pinellas Counties. Over the last 15 years it has been estimated that the scrub-jay population has decreased by 25 to 50% but has declined as much as 80% in the last 100 years.
The Florida scrub-jay’s habitat is scrub, a unique vegetation community that is made up of plants that exist well in sandy, nutrient poor soil with a good drainage system. This vegetation is dependant on wildfires that periodically take place and can take both long periods of drought and high seasonal rainfall. You can also find a variety of oaks and pines in this vegetation, which the scrub-jays enjoy.
Florida Scrub-jays are territorial birds and so will defend their territory, which averages about 23 acres in size. Their territory will grow in size if either their family size grows or the habitat they live in is not optimal. They are therefore non-migratory birds unlike so many others.
These birds are omnivores, often eating insects, reptiles, frogs, acorns, seeds and berries. Of these it is the insects that make up the majority of the scrub-jays diet in spring and summer. Then in winter when insects are hard to come by, the birds will eat mostly acorns from a variety of oak trees.