Cedar Key Scrub

Florida scrub-jay photos on Flickr: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCEk5SX.

Scrub-Jay Festival honors bird that lives only in Florida

Only one bird species, the Florida scrub-jay, makes its home exclusively in the Sunshine State. This songbird, with its bright blue headdress, wings and tail and bold, curious behavior depends on scrub habitat for survival.

Children and adults can learn more about Florida scrub-jays and explore first-hand the ecosystem where they live on Feb. 8 at the 5th annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival in Volusia County.

The free festival includes guided hikes and eco-buggy tours, a Scrub-Jay Q&A with experts, a keynote presentation, prescribed fire demonstrations, kids’ activities, exhibits and entertainment. It takes place at the Lyonia Environmental Center, 2150 Eustace Ave., Deltona, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is co-sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Volusia County, Florida Scrub-Jay Consortium, Florida Park Service and Around the Bend Nature Tours. An “early-bird” hike starts at 9 a.m. Those wishing to take the eco-buggy tours must register in advance at the environmental center or by calling 386-789-7207, extension 21028.

This native Florida songbird is all about family support:

“The Florida scrub-jay lives in family groups, composed of a breeding pair that mates for life and its offspring,” said Craig Faulhaber, FWC’s Florida scrub-jay conservation coordinator. “Young scrub-jays often stay with their parents for one or more years and act as helpers to defend the family’s territory and raise young. Breeding pairs with helpers successfully raise more young than lone pairs.

“Because Florida scrub-jays are very territorial and don’t migrate, people may get the chance to watch events in the life of a scrub-jay family throughout the year. Family members work together to defend territories averaging 25 acres from other scrub-jay families, with at least one member always on the lookout for predators,” Faulhaber noted.

The Florida scrub-jay is listed as a federally threatened species. Scrub-jay populations 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 inadequate habitat management. Historically, periodic wildfires maintained the shrubby, open habitat that scrub-jays 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 can help Florida scrub-jays by:
•Supporting habitat management on wildlife areas with scrub habitat.
•Keeping cats indoors 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 FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-FWCC (3922).

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

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