Photos by Marcella Munson
PLEASE CHECK OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND YAHOO GROUP in early 2015 to participate in the next annual Jay Watch citizen science effort.
Here is information about the Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), and the research being conducted now. The ESA blawg has a nice article about the Scrub-Jay’s disappearance from Northern Palm Beach County, particularly Seacrest Scrub in Boynton Beach.
For more information about the bird, the Cornell Lab, as usual, has the most authoritative information.
For those of you with institutional access, try the account from Birds of North America.
Some Florida Audubon’s efforts, see below:
Relic Florida sand dunes left over from a time when sea levels were much higher are the only place in the world where you can find Florida scrub habitat. This extreme habitat born of the sea and maintained by fire is the only home of the Florida Scrub-Jay. Unfortunately, high, dry and well-drained land is prime habitat for housing subdivisions and orange groves too, and little scrub remains for the jays. The scrub still in existence has been fragmented, and as a result has not enjoyed the renewing effects of fire which keep the habitat healthy. As a result, scrub-jay habitat and scrub-jay numbers are dwindling.
The Florida Scrub-Jay was classified as a Threatened species by the state in 1975, and by the federal government in 1987, but these designations have failed to halt the population decline. By 1993, Florida Scrub-jay populations had declined an estimated 90%, to about 10,000 individuals. Since then, further, severe declines have been documented in some Scrub-jay populations in Brevard County and elsewhere.
Recent land acquisition programs in Florida have targeted most of the privately owned scrublands in the peninsula, such as those along the Lake Wales Ridge in Highlands and Polk counties, along the central Atlantic coast in Brevard County, and in the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway in Lake, Orange, and Seminole counties. Unfortunately, habitat acquisition alone is not sufficient to maintain populations of Florida Scrub-jays; habitat management also is critical. Since most scrub in Florida is heavily overgrown, restoration is necessary to rejuvenate Scrub-jay populations.
Pinellas County Utilities owns and manages a 12,023-acre wellfield and buffer area in north-central Pasco County, known as Cross Bar Ranch Wellfield and Al-Bar Ranch. Al-Bar Ranch contains part of a regionally significant Scrub-jay population that totals at least 21 groups. Overgrown scrub at Al-Bar has caused the resident Scrub-jay groups to move into non-scrub habitats such as gallberry thickets. Because it is doubtful that Florida Scrub-jays can survive outside of oak scrub for many years, Pinellas County has implemented a scrub restoration and management project at Al-Bar Ranch. Virtually every large oak within a designated “Florida Scrub-jay Management Area” was cut down and burned in 1999-2000. The amount of habitat treated exceeds 200 acres, which makes this one of the most extensive projects yet undertaken to restore Florida Scrub-jay habitat. In time, this restoration effort should serve as a model for sites elsewhere in the state.
Audubon Florida is assisting Pinellas County Utilities with the design and implementation of its scrub restoration and management plan at Al-Bar Ranch. Audubon also is mapping Scrub-jay groups onsite and on some adjacent cattle ranches to document the current status of the population as part of a long-term monitoring effort. Assisting Audubon with the Scrub-jay project are Glen Woolfenden and Reed Bowman, two ornithologists at Archbold Biological Station in Lake Placid, and Peacock and Associates of
Jay Watchers in the Field
Audubon Florida coordinates the Jay Watch citizen science program statewide. We train and support volunteers to conduct scientific surveys that measure annual nesting success and count the total number of Florida Scrub-Jays at more than 50 sites in 19 counties. The success of the Jay Watch program, and the program’s contributions to the recovery of Florida Scrub-Jays, depends upon dedicated volunteer citizen scientists like you, your family, and your friends.
Remarkably, in just 2013 alone, over 250 volunteers invested nearly 2,050 hours sharpening their skills in onsite trainings and performing field surveys across the state. Click here to download Audubon’s 2013 Jay Watch Report for more information on this important citizen science program.
Florida Scrub-Jays: Nowhere Else on Earth
The Florida Scrub-Jay is our state’s only endemic bird species, found nowhere else in the world. It was listed as federally Threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Endangered Species Act in 1987, largely due to loss of its native scrub habitat and decades of fire suppression that allowed the scrub to become overgrown and unsuitable for Scrub-Jays. While mowing of too-tall oak scrub can open bare sand patches needed by the jays for predator detection and for caching acorns, fire is still needed to remove debris left on the ground after mowing. And some of the rarer scrub plants require fire to set seed and reproduce.
Just how threatened are Florida Scrub-Jays?
The state’s population of Florida Scrub-Jays is estimated to have declined by 90% since the early 1800s. Between 1993 and 2010 our state’s Scrub-Jay population declined another 26%, mostly on public lands where they are generally better protected.
Copyright 2013 National Audubon Society, Inc