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Florida Scrub Jay

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Physical Description

The Florida scrub jay is about 12 inches long when full grown. Its color is a mix of blue, white and gray. The male and female birds look alike. The young scrub jay usually has more dusty brown on its head and neck which is evident until the bird is about 5 or 6 months old. See the photo gallery for some photographs.

The Florida scrub jay has a sturdy black bill, dark legs and a gray-white throat area. Its wings, head and long tail are mainly blue. The only other large, long-tailed bird in Florida which is similar in appearance is the Blue Jay. See if you can find pictures of the blue jay and see what is different about the two birds.

One site where you can find photos of birds is the Photo Gallery of Southeastern U.S. Birds.The easiest way to search for photos in this photo gallery is to click on the alphabetical index which links to bird images.

Habitat Description

Florida scrub jays generally live close to the cover of oaks in some of the driest areas of Florida known as the scrub. The Florida scrub is one of the most endangered ecosystems in all of North America according to D. Bruce Means, Ph.D who wrote about the scrub in the May-June 1994 Florida Wildlife Magazine. The scrub is hot and dry and very sandy. Find out more about the plants which live in the scrub by visiting the Kennedy Space Center pages which tell about plants and trees you would find in the scrub ecosystemand provides pictures of them. Many other animals live in the scrub, including the gopher turtles. Animals that like a more moist and cooler area survive in the scrub by living underground or creating burrows.

 

Food

The Florida scrub jay's diet consists of many things, including insects, spiders, tree frogs, lizards, berries and seeds. They love acorns! It is estimated that each jay will gather and bury 6-8,000 acorns each year. By storing (which is called caching), the acorns they can eat them throughout the year.

 

Family Life

The Florida scrub jays live in family groups. Scrubs mate for life and their offspring stay as helpers for a year or more to raise the newly hatched birds. Nests are usually made about four feet off the ground and will have 3 or 4 light-blue and brown eggs. Fledglings (what the young birds are called) become helpers as soon as they are able to eat independently. This is usually about 85 days after hatching. The helpers do things such as feeding nestlings and fledglings, defending the territory, performing sentinel duties to warn others of dangers and helping to attack predators. The family group establishes its territory, which it remains in year-round. Because their habitat areas are becoming scarce it is hard for young scrubs to establish new territories of their own.

Florida scrub jays are considered friendly and curious. They seem to do well around people and have been known to become so tame that they can be hand fed.

 

Find out more about the Florida Scrub Jay by clicking on the Scrub Menu to see resources online.

February 1999 Carla Schutte
Technology Specialist,
Moton Elementary