When I first began visiting the Helen and Alan Cruickshank Sanctuary about 5 years ago, I was unaware of the vital importance of the scrubby habitat that this location protects and nourishes. The sanctuary is where my fascination began with the Florida Scrub-Jay, a species whose antics are always entertaining! I still enjoy regular walks on the trails there, where sedentary Florida Scrub-Jays, as well as other species of wildlife, are consistently observed.
In addition to developing a fondness for the Scrub-Jay, I also developed an awareness of the Scrub-Jay's plight to maintain its existence.
The Florida Scrub-Jay resides only in scrubby flatwood and oak/sand pine scrub habitats in Florida. Unfortunately this habitat has continued to dwindle as developers also covert this land. The Florida Scrub-Jay, Florida's only endemic bird, became classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1987 due to the continued destruction of their habitat. I happen to live in an area of Central Florida, where there are still small pockets of scrubby flatwood that contain concentrated populations of Scrub-Jays. Despite the Florida Scrub-Jay's endangered status, they are typically bold, inquisitive birds that will approach you before you have even spotted them.
Watching Scrub-Jays forage can be quite entertaining, as they hop around the sandy ground. Scrub-Jays are omnivorous, and they primarily eat insects and acorns. Scrub-Jays will often cache their stash of acorns underground for later consumption. Scrub-Jays open their acorns by cracking them against a hard surface.
I recently came across this Scrub-Jay with a bill deformity. I'm not sure if it was born with this deformity or if the bird was injured. This was the first such deformity I've noted in a Scrub-Jay.
Hopefully the Scrub-Jays will be able to maintain their populations in the pockets of Florida's scrublands that still exist.