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 to 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 to 9,300 birds.
The sandy habitat necessary for scrub-jays is protected by a number of Florida state parks:
- In Central Florida, you might spot a Florida scrub-jay while hiking the trails at Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park.
- Beker - South Fork uplands consist of scrub, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, mesic hammocks and small pockets of sandhill.
- The Pine Island Trail at Blue Springs State Park winds for 4 miles through sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods and freshwater marsh.
- The largest amount of protected scrub-jay habitat in Southeast Florida can be found at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
- 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.
- North Peninsula State Park features coastal scrub habitat.
- Rock Springs Run State Reserve features a desert-like sandpine scrub community that is home to the scrub jay.
- Savannas Preserve State Park protects some of the last remaining contiguous coastal scrub strands in southeast Florida.
- Seabranch Preserve State Park has sand pines and the understory where scrub jays are seen.
- Scrub-jays also make their home in the scrubby flatwoods of Oscar Scherer State Park.
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.