Tuesday 18 June
Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
Florida scrub-jay fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Florida scrub-jay description
The Florida scrub-jay is the rarest of five species belonging to the genus Aphelocoma, which translates as ‘smooth-hair’ and refers to the absence of the head crest possessed by some of the more ubiquitous North American jays (1) (3). The male Florida scrub-jay is slightly larger than the female but the plumage of both sexes is identically patterned with an attractive array of blues and greys (3) (4) (5). While the juveniles are similar in appearance, the dull grey head easily distinguishes them from the blue-headed adults (2) (5). Originally, the Florida scrub-jay was lumped together with the Western and Island scrub-jays as one species, but further to genetic studies, all three are now considered separate species (5).
- Length: 27 - 31 cm (2)
Florida scrub-jay biology
The Florida scrub-jay lives a co-operative lifestyle, with the offspring of each breeding pair usually remaining with the parent birds to ‘help out around the nest’ for at least a year (3) (5). The role of the immature jays is to assist in the feeding of hatchlings and to defend against predators and other territorial scrub-jays (5). These immature helpers are so important that without them, breeding pairs are unable to raise as many young (2) (3). Each Florida scrub-jay pair mates for life and builds a new nest each year between February and March. The nest is made from twigs and palm fibres, and is normally located in a low, dense shrub around one metre off the ground (3) (5). The female lays around three to four eggs, out of which the naked and vulnerable young hatch after about 18 days. Whilst the female tends to the nest, the male forages for food for the nestlings and its mate, and defends the nest, usually with the help of last years’ offspring. The nestlings fledge after another 18 days, but continue to be nurtured for up to three months, after which they remain with the parent birds to learn crucial skills, whilst helping to protect the group (3).
The Florida scrub-jay is a truly omnivorous species, consuming everything from acorns and berries, through to snakes, frogs and young birds, with a variety of arthropods in between (2) (3). Such a diverse range of food items requires a number of different foraging techniques, including picking insects off plants, hoarding acorns in the ground, scaring prey out of vegetation, and even pulling ticks from the backs of livestock and deer (3) (5). In fact, so comfortable is the Florida scrub-jay in acquiring food from a mammalian perch that, given the prospect of food, it will happily alight on a human hand, arm or head (3) (5).Top
Florida scrub-jay rangeTop
Florida scrub-jay habitat
This species is restricted to low-growing oak scrub habitat on sandy soils (5) (6). The vegetation structure is maintained by frequent fires with the most favourable habitat occurring five to fifteen years after a fire (2) (3). In the absence of fire, this community is replaced by dense pines and tall deciduous trees, which the Florida scrub-jay will not inhabit (2) (3) (5).Top
Florida scrub-jay status
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).Top
Florida scrub-jay threats
The loss of 70 to 80 percent of oak scrub habitat to housing development, citrus groves and pasture has severely fragmented the historical range of the Florida scrub-jay (2) (3). The dispersal capabilities of this species across non-suitable habitat are very limited, with just one kilometre of forest or eight kilometres of non-scrub habitat being sufficient to permanently segregate populations (2). With the rise of development, fire is increasingly suppressed, causing suitable habitat to be replaced by unsuitable pine forest, in which the jay is much more vulnerable to predation (3). Furthermore, fragmentation and ever encroaching development has increased the number of fatal encounters with cats and vehicles, and exposure to disease (2) (3) (6). In response to these negative pressures, the population of Florida scrub-jay plummeted by more than 85 percent to an estimated 6,500 birds at the turn of this century (3).Top
Florida scrub-jay conservation
Although classified as threatened on the Endangered Species Act and the subject of a recovery plan implemented in 1999, overall conservation efforts for the Florida scrub-jay have been poor. While 75 percent of the Florida scrub-jay population occurs on publicly owned land, much of it has not been subjected to fire for many years. Land acquisitions and appropriate habitat management are critical for the recovery of this species. While this is ongoing on a small scale, both public and private agencies and landowners need to work together to initiate controlled burns on a larger scale, with the ultimate aim of providing connections between remnant populations (3).Top
Find out more
For further information on the conservation of the Florida scrub-jay see:
- National Audubon Society:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTop
- A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
- Feeding on both plants and animals.
- IUCN Red List (October, 2007)
- BirdLife International (November, 2008)
- National Audubon Society (November, 2008)
- US Fish and Wildlife Service. (2007) Species account: Florida scrub-jay. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida. Available at:
- Woolfenden, G.E. and Fitzpatrick, J.W. (1996) Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). In: Poole, A. (Ed) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
- Hipes, D., Jackson, D.R., NeSmith, K., Printiss, D. and Brandt, K. (2000) Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida. Available at:
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.
Listen to the Florida scrub-jay
Florida scrub-jay recordings by Geoffrey A. Keller
© Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
New York 14850
United States of America
Tel: +1 (607) 254-2404
Fax: +1 (607) 254-2439