News Releases

Upcoming Scrub-Jay Festival celebrates bird unique to Florida

News Release

Monday, February 23, 2015

Media contact: Lisa Thompson, 727-896-8626; Greg Workman, 352-620-7335

The Florida scrub-jay, the only bird found exclusively in the Sunshine State, and its fascinating habitat are the features of the sixth annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival in Brevard County on Saturday, Feb. 28.

The charismatic songbird is an important part of Florida’s natural heritage, and this federally threatened species needs people’s help in order to survive.

The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to one of the largest populations of scrub-jays in the state. Children and adults can learn more about Florida scrub-jays and explore their dry, sandy scrub habitat at this free event, which includes guided nature walks, live animal displays, activities for kids, educational presentations, live music and a Q & A with scrub-jay experts. An “early-bird” hike starts at 8 a.m.

 This native Florida bird is all about family support.

“Unlike most birds, Florida scrub-jays live in multigenerational family groups,” said Angela Tringali, Florida scrub-jay conservation coordinator at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “Young from previous years stay home and help their parents raise their younger siblings.

“Scrub-jay family groups defend their territory from their neighbors and take turns keeping a look-out for predators. During the festival, you may have the chance to observe some of these special behaviors,” Tringali noted.

Populations of the Florida scrub-jay are thought to have declined by as much as 90 percent since the late 1800s due to habitat loss. More recently, scrub-jays have continued to decline even on protected lands due to habitat management constraints. Historically, periodic wildfires maintained the shrubby, open habitat that scrub-jays and other wildlife need to survive. Now scrub-jays and other plants and animals rely on agencies like the FWC and its partners to use prescribed fire and other methods to maintain the shrubby habitat they need. People also benefit from maintenance of scrub habitat thanks to the sandy soil’s positive filter effect on Florida’s aquifer, which provides the state with fresh drinking water.

People can help Florida scrub-jays by:

  • Supporting habitat management, including prescribed fire, on wildlife areas with scrub habitat;
  • Keeping cats indoors in areas near scrub-jay habitat;
  • Reducing use of pesticides around homes and golf courses, since scrub-jays feed on insects;
  • Reporting harassment or harm to scrub-jays or their nests to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-FWCC (3922).

The festival is co-sponsored by the FWC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Scrub-Jay Consortium, Florida Park Service and Around the Bend Nature Tours. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where the festival is being held, is on State Road 402, 5 miles east of the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and state Route 406 in Titusville.

For more on Florida scrub-jays, including more information about the Florida Scrub-Jay Festival, go to MyFWC.com/scrub-jay. Hear the sound of a Florida scrub-jay at AllAboutBirds.org (search for Florida scrub-jay).



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