The Endangered Florida ScrubJay

Entered onto the endangered list as a threatened species in 1987, the Florida Scrub Jay populations have dramatically decreased in numbers over the last few years. Encroachment on their natural habitat and their unique breeding and survival habits could lead to the extinction of this magnificent bird that is endemic to Florida. Fortunately, researchers have been keeping a close eye on these birds for more than thirty-five years and have come up with a solution to ensure that the Florida Scrub Jay will continue to frequent the landscapes of Florida and hopefully increase their numbers.

The Florida Scrub Jay is noticeable by its blue wings, tail, head, nape and bib, and their underparts and backs are a light shade of grey. They have black bills, feet and legs, and grow to approximately twenty-eight centimeters in height. It is the unique scrub in Florida that has ensured that the Florida Scrub Jay has remained within this state, in ecosystems filled with Myrtle Oak, Sand Pine, Florida Rosemary, Eastern Prickly Pear and Chapman’s Oak. They live on a diet of mice, frogs, acorns, peanuts, lizards and insects, and are known to store acorns throughout the year. It was observed by the late Glen Woolfenden in 1969 that these extraordinary birds take part in what is known as cooperative breeding, meaning that more than one bird tends to a nest. An intern, John Fitzpatrick, joined Woolfenden three years later, and has continued his work in regard to the study and conservation of the Florida Scrub Jay.

One vital aspect that will help to save the Florida Scrub Jay is to ensure that there is enough scrub to encourage the birds to move to larger areas, like stepping stones from one area to the next. It has been found that Florida Scrub Jays do not move to unfamiliar habitats, and the divisions between habitats will eventually cause birds to be isolated from one another and become extinct. Wildfires are also a major threat to this bird’s habitat. Research has also shown that the different Scrub Jay species have various different needs, and each population should therefore be treated and conserved individually. Fitzpatrick hopes that by sharing his knowledge of the Scrub Jays, positive changes will be made to conserve and protect these socially dependant birds throughout the state of Florida.