Photo: Dawn Huczek/Flickr Creative Commons

Florida Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma coerulescens

This bird is noteworthy on several counts. It lives nowhere in the world except Florida, it has a complicated social system, it has been the subject of very detailed field studies, and it is threatened by loss of habitat. Formerly considered just a race of the scrub-jays found in the west, it is now classified as a full species.
Conservation status Endangered. As of the early 1990s, the total population was estimated at about 4,000 pairs, probably a reduction of more than 90% from original numbers. Loss of habitat has been the main problem. Prime Florida oak scrub is maintained by occasional fires, so fire prevention has added to the effect of ongoing development in squeezing out the jay's habitat.
Family Crows, Magpies, Jays
Habitat Florida scrublands. Its name is appropriate, for it lives only in Florida scrub, areas of short scrubby oaks growing on sandy soil. This habitat occurs mostly as isolated pockets, and the jays rarely wander away from their own little patch of scrub, making them extremely sedentary.
This bird is noteworthy on several counts. It lives nowhere in the world except Florida, it has a complicated social system, it has been the subject of very detailed field studies, and it is threatened by loss of habitat. Formerly considered just a race of the scrub-jays found in the west, it is now classified as a full species.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages on the ground and in trees, usually in flocks. Harvests large numbers of acorns and buries them, coming back to retrieve and eat them later.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-6. Usually light green, spotted with olive or brown. Incubation is by female, usually 17-18 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young: Fed by both parents and by "helpers" in the nesting group. Young leave nest about 18 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.


Young

Fed by both parents and by "helpers" in the nesting group. Young leave nest about 18 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.

Diet

Mostly acorns and arthropods. Acorns make up a major part of the diet at most seasons. Eats a wide variety of insects, especially in summer, as well as a few spiders and snails. Also eats berries, seeds, and some small vertebrates such as reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and the eggs and young of smaller birds.


Nesting

Breeds in cooperative flocks. Each nesting territory is occupied by an adult pair and often by one to six "helpers," usually the pair's offspring from previous years. These additional birds assist in defending the territory and feeding the young. Studies have shown that a pair with "helpers" is likely to raise more young than a pair without. Nest site is in tree or shrub, usually an oak, with sand live oak strongly favored. Nest is usually low, averaging 3-4 feet above the ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is a well-built, thick-walled cup of twigs, grass, and moss, lined with fine rootlets and plant fibers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Highly sedentary, rarely moving even short distances away from patches of appropriate habitat.

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Migration

Highly sedentary, rarely moving even short distances away from patches of appropriate habitat.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song: trills and high warbles. Call: loud harsh shreep.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Florida Scrub-Jay

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Florida Scrub-Jay

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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