The Florida Scrub-Jay is a sight to be seen! That is, if you're lucky enough to see it. The only one of their kind, these endangered birds are exclusive to the state of Florida. They’re about the size of a robin and have a scratchy song, but there’s so much more to these Floridian birds than you might know. Read on to learn more about the seldom seen, always sweet Florida Scrub-Jay.
This small-to-medium sized passerine is about the size of a robin but looks nothing like it. Florida Scrub-Jays have faded blue coloring overall with a whitish forehead and a pale gray back and belly. The blue takes time to present itself; juveniles start out grayer than adults and eventually mature into their blue in adulthood.
The Florida Scrub-Jay’s diet consists of insects (crickets are their favorite), arthropods, and acorns. They’re notorious for hopping around on the ground or in trees and collecting acorns, which they later bury in the ground for after-hour snacking. While they favor insects, the blue beauty will also partake in traditional wild bird food such as berries and seeds. In a pinch, they’ll even dip into small vertebrates like reptiles, amphibians, and rodents.
Super social and down to hang with just about anyone, Florida Scrub-Jays can often be found perched vertically on wires or exposed branches. Birders may spot them by their long tails, which hang downward from their high posts. This watchdog position makes them perfectly primed to look out for one another, which they do often. These sentinels take turns keeping an eye out for hawks and snakes while the rest of the family forages for food. Should they spot a predator, they send out an alarm call that alerts the others to scatter!
Personalities can be hit or miss with songbirds, but the Florida Scrub-Jay is known for its friendly nature. Smart, inquisitive, and personable, these birds will eat right out of the palm of your hand! When they’re not noshing on bugs and berries, Scrub-Jays favor sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. They enjoy eating out of bird feeders in yards and dipping into bird baths, so consider adding these to your setup if you live in Florida.
These monogamous birds mate for life, but that’s not the only interesting aspect of their breeding behavior. Florida Scrub-Jays are also cooperative breeders; this means that when offspring leave the nest, rather than immediately going off to start their own families, they stick around and help their parents raise their brothers and sisters. Such nice siblings!
Florida’s Finest… for now
There are other types of Scrub-Jays (California, Mexican, Western, and Island) but only one Floridian. As the only bird species that lives exclusively in Florida, the Florida Scrub-Jay is a known homebody. They don’t migrate and often build their own nests no more than a few miles from where they were hatched. Scrub-Jays’ habitats are characterized by low-growing oak scrub and scrubby flatwoods, hence their name.
Unfortunately, this beautiful blue songbird has been endangered since the 1990s. Habitat fragmentation, land development, and Florida fires have contributed to their tenuous status. If you find yourself in Florida or happen to live there, the Archbold Biological Station and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge are two reserves where you might spot them.