With fewer than 10,000 remaining on the planet, all in Florida, and with that number decreasing, the Florida scrub-jay is highly at risk. These friendly birds known to mate for life are the only bird species unique to Florida.
The Nature Conservancy took a positive step toward helping reverse that trend this week with the purchase of nearly 100 acres of scrub habitat in Lake County. The site is not only home to Florida scrub-jays but connects two areas of Florida scrub-jay habitat in Seminole State Forest. The Conservancy purchased the site using $260,000 in mitigation funds provided through a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and then transferred the land to the state.
“The majority of Florida scrub has been converted to development and citrus since it’s so high and dry. Unfortunately, this type of land, with oaks and bare sandy soil, is also required for survival by our threatened Florida scrub-jays. So when a piece can be permanently saved, it means life to multiple generations of birds,” said Nature Conservancy Director of Conservation Doria Gordon.
This protected scrub site will also save Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, gopher frog and wild coco, among other species documented as inhabiting the site.
“Because scrub-jays usually don’t fly far and prefer to be near other scrub-jays, ensuring their long-term persistence depends on the protection and management of large contiguous blocks of habitat,” said Craig Faulhaber, Florida scrub-jay coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “This property not only provides habitat for several families, it connects a Seminole State Forest parcel with several scrub-jay families to the north and approximately 300 contiguous acres of potential scrub-jay habitat on parcels to the south.”
The tract was at risk of being subdivided into smaller parcels and developed, which would not only destroy habitat but impede fire management of the surrounding conservation lands. Scrub requires periodic fires to stay suitable for jays.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.