Florida Scrub Jay at Rock Springs Run

Florida Scrub Jay

Rock Springs Run Reserve is Home to the Florida Scrub Jay

The Florida scrub-jay is the state’s only endemic bird, which means it can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The loss of sandy, scrubby habitat that is managed with frequent fire is one reason why scrub-jay numbers are declining with the state of Florida.

Thanks to scrub restoration efforts at Rock Springs Run State Reserve since the early 2000s, the Florida Scrub-jay population is increasing.

In 2015, a Florida scrub-jay pair found their way to the scrub habitat at Rock Springs Run and made it their home.

In 2018, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assisted Rock Springs Run State Reserve by translocation or the process of relocating scrub-jays from one area to another. Due to these efforts, the park now has up to six family groups at Rock Springs Run State Reserve

Florida scrub-jays at Rock Springs Run
Florida Scrub-Jays at Rock Spring Run Reserve State Park

This highly intelligent bird can get approximately 12-inch-long, and wears its blue feathers on its tail, wings, head, and collar along with grey color on its back and belly.  The Florida scrub-jay is a curious bird that eats a variety of animals and plants. This bold bird will hop along the ground looking for insects, and acorns. The Florida scrub-jay is highly social and lives in family groups which establish a home called a territory in the habitat.

Florida scrub-jay pairs will mate for life and their mating season is from March to May. The scrub-jay has a nesting territory that is occupied by a mating pair and one to six "helper" individuals who help defend their territory and feed the young.

Florida scrub-jays are known as cooperative breeders because individual helper birds who do not mate in a given season are known to assist their parents or siblings in raising their young.

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. Fire is one essential way park staff maintains the scrub-jay habitat. Some areas need to be burned every five to 20 years to keep scrub vegetation at their preferred heights. If the vegetation becomes too dense or tall, scrub-jays will no longer want to use those areas. 

Ways 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 the 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.
Florida scrub-jay at Rock Springs Run
Florida Scrub-Jay at Rock Springs Run Reserve State Park