Florida scrub-jays and scrub habitat to be celebrated at Feb. 23 festival
Why is keeping Florida “shrubby”” important to the Florida scrub-jay, the only bird species unique to this state?
It’s because the bright blue and gray bird needs scrub habitat -- dry, sandy areas with low shrubs and a few trees -- to survive.
Come to the 10th annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival on Saturday, Feb. 23 in downtown Titusville at the Julia Street parking lot to learn more about this threatened species and its reliance on healthy scrub habitat. You can also enjoy organized bike rides, field trips, nature exhibits, children’s crafts and games, live music, and a watercolor exhibit at the free event. (Note: the festival was rescheduled from its previous location, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, but there may be field trips there.)
“Sandy beaches are what people typically associate with Florida, but we also have sandy scrub habitat crucial to the survival of the Florida scrub-jay and other native wildlife,” said Craig Faulhaber, avian coordinator at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “Scrub habitat is being conserved today on many public lands, including Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a partner in this year’s Florida Scrub-Jay Festival.”
Scrub-jay populations have fallen dramatically since the late 1800s, primarily because of loss of scrub habitat and lack of natural or prescribed fires. Prescribed fires and other habitat management are necessary to keep scrub shrubby and maintain quality habitat. The sandy soils of scrub habitat also naturally absorb rainwater and filter it into the aquifers that provide Florida’s drinking water.
Increase your chances of seeing and helping Florida scrub-jays by:
- Visiting the FWC’s Wildlife Management Areas with scrub habitat, such as the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area, Salt Lake WMA and Platt Branch WEA, to watch Florida scrub-jays in the wild. Ocala National Forest and Seminole State Forest also are good places to look for scrub-jays.
- Volunteering with Jay Watch, a citizen-science effort coordinated by Audubon Florida. Jay Watch volunteers are trained to conduct scientific surveys that measure the population numbers and nesting success of Florida scrub-jays. The FWC is a Jay Watch partner.
- Keeping your cats indoors to protect scrub-jays and other wildlife.
- Reducing use of pesticides around your home, since scrub-jays feed on insects.
- Reporting harassment or harm to scrub-jays or their nests to FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.
What is the Florida scrub-jay call like? More like a screech than a song, since it is in the same family as the crow. And like crows, scrub-jays are bold, smart and full of personality. Hear the sound of a Florida scrub-jay by going to AllAboutBirds.org and searching for Florida scrub-jay.
Find out about this bird’s biology and behavior by going to MyFWC.com and clicking on “Engaging in Conservation,” where you will see “Species Profiles” and can select the “Birds” category to find the Florida scrub-jay’s profile.