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The Disappearing Native Bird

27 May

“The Florida Scrub-jay is one of North America’s most endangered birds” – that’s the opening line of the Jay Watch Volunteer Training Manual.  Every year in the middle of June volunteers monitor jay populations at more than 40 conservation sites from northern Volucia County to Palm Beach County in the southeast and Sarasota County in the southwest.  In the year 1992 there were 11,000 individual Jays counted and by 2011 only 6,500 were found.  What is most disturbing is that there was a 26% decline on protected lands.

Greg Brown, Ranger at the Savannas Preserve State Park, calling the Jays.

Greg Brown, Ranger at the Savannas Preserve State Park, calling the Jays.

At a yearly Jay Watch meeting volunteers are taught monitoring procedures and are encouraged to become familiar with particular sites.  Since Scrub-jays are territorial, each monitoring site is visited 3 times over a one month period, at varied times of the morning.  This schedule increases the likelihood that all birds will be counted.  A CD of Jay scolding calls is played in 4 directions at least 3 times in hopes of bringing the Jays close enough to identify individual birds.

Chris  Vandello, Biologist at the Savannas Preserve State Park, identifying the Jays.

Chris Vandello, Biologist at the Savannas Preserve State Park, identifying the Jays.

By July, fledglings will still have their brown heads and previously banded adult birds will have rings of color on their legs.  The different colors allow volunteers to ID specific birds and follow them if they move to other territories.  Many Jays stay in their home territory for several years and help raise the next year’s babies as well as protect the borders from Jays trying to move in.  Unbanded adult birds are also noted and will eventually receive special training to ready them for the bander.

When volunteers play the scolding call, the Jays come quickly, ready to defend the borders from interlopers.  Volunteers document flight directions as well as colored leg bands.  These bands fade or are lost over time and become difficult to read correctly.  Several people working together can help to verify the colors.

Each banded bird carries 2 colored bands on their right leg as well as a uniquely numbered aluminum US Fish and Wildlife band on the left.  A colored band is also placed on the left leg for a total of 4 bands.

Adult Scrub-jay with purple over red and red over silver bands.

Adult Scrub-jay with purple over red and a silver band. One band is missing.

All Scrub-jays do not live in state parks.  There are many hanging on in small scrub areas where development has encroached on their territory.  You can help by:

  • Reporting any Jays found outside of a park. Call the park or preserve closest to you.  It is also helpful to report any bands on their legs.
  • By securing your cats on your own property.  Many fledglings are killed by cats allowed to roam.
  • Educating your friends and family about the plight of Florida’s Disappearing Native Bird.  Maybe, just maybe we can stabilize the numbers that remain.
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6 Comments

Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Florida Scrub-Jay, Scrub-jay

 

Tags: , , ,

6 responses to “The Disappearing Native Bird

  1. Susan Hastings

    May 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Nice, informative article. It’s sad to see the decline in our wildlife population but nice to see that people are working together to try to stop it.

     
    • Dee Staley

      May 27, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Thanks Susan. I know you’ll be out there working to help the Scrub-jays too. d

       
  2. kimasherman

    May 27, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Thanks for the information. I too am glad that there are people helping the scrub jay population.

     
    • Dee Staley

      May 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      Glad you liked it Kim. The Scrub-jays need lots of help. Get the word out.

       
  3. FeyGirl

    May 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Omigosh, I would have LOVED to have done this… I had no idea they had this kind of program! Then again, I’ve only been up there twice. 🙂

    When I was born in Central FLA, my mother used to talk about all the scrub jays, so many out there. It’s tragic. I’ll have to visit the Savannas soon and ask to be taken out to do this! So exciting.

     
    • Dee Staley

      May 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      How wonderful…I love Scrub-jay friends. Call the Savannas and get on their e-mail newsletter list.
      They have great nature-related activities.

       

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