The Florida scrub-jay is a loyal and social Florida native.
It’s the state’s only endemic bird, which means the Florida scrub-jay is found nowhere else and its need for a specific habitat is one reason why scrub-jay numbers are declining. The only bird species that requires a sandy, scrubby habitat to survive is the Florida scrub-jay.
As the state’s human population has grown, development has increased and the scrub-jays’ choice habitat has become more limited. A scrub-jay family’s permanent territory averages about 22-24 acres, which makes it challenging for young birds to find suitable space for a family.
The species is federally listed as threatened, in large part due to of loss of habitat and decades of fire suppression that allowed scrub habitat to become overgrown. Prescribed burning helps maintain the bare ground and shrub height vital for scrub-jay survival. The current Florida scrub-jay population is estimated at about 7,700-9,300 birds.
The sandy habitat necessary for scrub-jays is protected by a number of Florida state parks. Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park near Lake Placid is home to a number of rare animals and plants, including the Florida scrub-jay. The largest amount of protected scrub-jay habitat in Southeast Florida can be found at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. In Central Florida, you might spot a Florida scrub-jay while hiking the trails at Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park.
Scrub-jays also make their home in the scrubby flatwoods of Oscar Scherer State Park, where the Scrub-Jay 5K/10K Race will be held Feb. 13, 2016. Following the race, the park will host the 2016 Florida Scrub-Jay Festival with guided walks, food and live music. The festival is an annual event celebrating the state’s unique bird.
You Can Help the Florida Scrub-Jay
- Provide habitat for scrub-jays by planting and protecting scrub patches on your property. Maintain a maximum height of 10 feet for vegetation if you live on or near a scrub-jay habitat.
- Protect scrub-jays from family pets, especially cats. Encourage passage and strict enforcement of community leash laws for dogs and cats.
- Restrict use of pesticides. They can limit or contaminate the insects consumed by jays.
- Support establishment of scrub-jay preserves. Managed habitat is essential for protecting the species.
- Do not hand-feed them; it is illegal and a danger to their well-being.