Audubon Adventures

Florida Scrub-Jay

Birds are everywhere. Some stay in the same place all year round. Others migrate. Those birds fly between the place where they lay their eggs and raise their young and the place where they go to be warm and find food in the winter. Some types of birds can be found in many different places—in several states, for example, and even in several different countries.

And then there’s the Florida Scrub-Jay. This blue-and-gray bird lives only in Florida. And it lives only in a particular kind of habitat called the Florida scrub, which explains its name. Besides living only in Florida, it is the only bird that lives only in Florida.

The Florida Scrub-Jay is what scientists call an “indicator species.” That means it’s possible to tell how healthy the Florida scrub habitat is by paying attention to how many Florida Scrub-Jays there are. The population of this Florida-only bird has been declining over many years. Its habitat is shrinking as people build roads, homes, and businesses in and around the scrub. There’s another reason the scrub habitat is shrinking that may seem surprising. This kind of habitat needs to burn regularly in order to stay healthy. Fire prevents trees from growing so they can hide predators. Fire also keeps sandy patches open, something that is very important for the Florida Scrub-Jay because of the way it buries acorns in the sand and returns later to eat them. But for a long time fires that would help the scrub habitat were put out too soon. Now, plenty of people are protecting Florida’s scrub and its very special Florida-only bird. How are they doing that?

The answer is in the Audubon Adventures magazine in the column on the right. Just click on the cover to open it up and find out a lot more about this very interesting bird.

Photos: (t to b) Carlton Ward Jr.; Stephen Kintner.