February 1, 2013

Florida Scrub-Jay

James Stevenson,
Urban Sustainability Educator,
Pinellas County Extension

The Florida Scrub-Jay is the only bird species in Florida that is found nowhere else. This original Native Floridian inhabits the most critically endangered landscape type in the world: scrub. While scrub may (arguably) not be the most beautiful and lush ecosystem type, it is unique and hosts many species dependant on the water and fire regimes that define this landscape.

Scrub is disappearing from Florida due to several reasons; development, agriculture and fire suppression. As a result, many of the species of plants and animals that inhabit scrub have become threatened, endangered or extinct altogether. The Scrub-Jay is no exception, and in the last century populations of Scrub-Jay have declined 80-90% (Johnson, et al, 2012).

In addition to habitat loss due to development and agriculture, roads have proven to be particularly treacherous for these charismatic birds. Tending to fly low across paved roads, the birds have seen a tremendous negative impact of living in fragmented parcels bounded by roadways, and traffic mortalities are high.

Another threat from human development is the introduction of non-native predators that kill indiscriminately like feral cats. What can be done? Many of Florida landowners have realized that “Old Florida” is disappearing and they are taking steps to repair decades of degradation. Once again using fire to restore native ecosystems has proven to be effective in slowly restoring Florida scrub. Campaigns to educate the public on the importance of keeping non-native predators, like cats, indoors has been a little less effective, sometimes becoming a catalyst for heated argument. Learn more about these fascinating birds and their unique habitat by attending Florida Scrub-Jays on Saturday, February 9 from 10:30 – noon at the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center. State expert Craig Faulhaber will introduce participants to these fascinating birds and what is being done to protect them.

Register for this free class by visiting

References: The Florida Scrub-Jay: A Species in Peril 

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