Florida Scrub-jay – Finally!

You might remember this post from the end of January where I described a visit to Scrub Ridge Trail in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to try to observe the Florida Scrub-jay.  We didn’t see any of them on that trip.  Two weeks ago, several members of the Photography Interest Group returned and were able to locate one, but I couldn’t go.

This species is Florida’s only endemic bird and the only one that resides permanently in scrub habitat.  Development has reduced the amount of scrub land still available.  As a result, the Scrub-jay is listed as a threatened species.   Despite conservation efforts, it’s still in decline, with perhaps less than 3000 breeding pairs left in the wild.

Each breeding pair needs 20 to 40 acres to forage and Scrub-jays have developed some interesting adaptive behaviors due to their restricted habitat.  A pair mates for life, and they maintain small family groups that help defend territory and raise young.  The younger members of the brood can postpone breeding for several years to help feed babies, keep nests clean, and watch for predators.  They’re omnivores and forage on the ground and in mid to low-level vegetation for food.

Anyway, I returned to Scrub Ridge Trail last Saturday.  Kevin M. told me that the Scrub-jay they saw was to the left of the parking area.  This fits in with another fact about them:  They prefer relatively clear scrub and will leave an area after it’s grown up too much.  The official Scrub Ridge Trail is to the right of the parking area and is quite a bit more over-grown than the area on the left.  I wonder if the Scrub-jays used to live to the right  when the trail was originally set out and have moved on since.  I did see 5 or 6 Scrub-jays in the less overgrown area to the left, both on the ground and higher up.  This one was in a tree, keeping watch on me.  Maybe one of the non-breeding members of the family?

The elusive Florida Scrub Jay
The elusive Florida Scrub Jay

I also visited Black Point Wildlife Drive where there were some very pretty Spoonbills, and on the way back, I stopped on the causeway just before getting on the new bridge.  There was a group of Black Skimmers on a small sand bar just off shore and I had fun getting a few photos of them in flight – the first time I’ve photographed this species too.

A pair of Black Skimmers in flight
A pair of Black Skimmers in flight

I really enjoyed the trip.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog – now go make some photos!

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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