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Florida Scrub Jay
Photograph - Digital
From Florida Birds Collection by artist Dawn Currie
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I have been out with avid birders looking for their first glimpse of this unique beautiful, and threatened bird - the Florida Scrub Jay. I have observed and photographed them throughout Brevard and Indian River Counties, including the Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary in Rockledge Florida, Southlake Conservation Area in Titusville Florida, and South County Regional Park in Vero Beach Florida. I found this particular bird in Sebastian Florida keep a sharp lookout for predators in his territory.
The Florida Scrub Jay is one of the species of scrub jay native to North America. It is the only species of bird endemic to the U.S. state of Florida and one of only 15 species endemic to the United States.
Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens): The Florida Scrub-Jay is a medium-sized, crestless jay with gray upper parts and under parts, blue head, and pale eyebrows. Throat is gray and breast has blue-gray streaks. The wings and tail are blue. Bill, legs and feet are black. They are very curious and unafraid of humans.
The Florida Scrub-Jay is a well-studied cooperative breeder, with most offspring staying with their parents to help them raise young for at least one year. Individual members of a Florida Scrub-Jay family take turns watching for hawks while the rest of the family looks for food. If a dangerous hawk is seen, the sentinel gives an alarm call and everyone dives for cover. A different call alerts the family to snakes and other dangers on the ground, and the entire family will join in mobbing a terrestrial predator.
The Florida Scrub Jay can become hand-tame in areas where it comes in contact with people. Unfortunately the salted peanuts offered by humans are extremely harmful to the species, by altering mating habits and through dehydration. This bird is also restricted to the rare oak scrub community of Florida, a habitat under constant threat of development. At this time, the Florida Scrub Jay is classified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The steep declines in both scrub habitat and Florida Scrub-Jay populations can be directly correlated to the expansive growth of Brevard County's human population during the past 60 years. The estimated 87% decline in Florida Scrub-Jays population was primarily due to scrub habitat loss as a result of the transformation of high, dry land into agricultural, commercial and residential land uses. The remaining scrub parcels are highly fragmented and generally provide poor quality habitat to dependent species due to long-term fire suppression. These trends, which are mirrored statewide, threaten Florida's only endemic bird, the Florida Scrub-Jay, with extinction.
November 30th, 2013
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