bird in hand

Monitoring Scrub Jay Populations

by Karl Miller

Habitat loss and fire suppression are well known threats to the persistence of the threatened Florida scrub-jay.  However, many populations are also becoming increasingly isolated by changes to the surrounding landscape.  Connectivity within and among metapopulations has been greatly reduced by human development, especially in coastal counties.  Translocation is one strategy that is being evaluated to boost the size of smaller populations and to better link these populations with each other.

full hacking cageEfforts to translocate Florida scrub-jays are still in their early stages and have been successful in only two regions of the state.  During the past few years, I have participated in experimental translocations of isolated scrub-jay family groups to recently restored public lands which have populations below their potential carrying capacity.  An ongoing partnership of staff from FWRI, the Brevard Zoo, and FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation conducts these targeted scrub-jay translocations in Brevard County and Volusia County.

In January, we trapped and banded a family of Florida scrub-jays in a heavily developed urban area in Brevard County and moved them to nearby Buck Lake Wildlife Management Area.  Birds were captured from a utility right-of-way behind a car wash.  Not only was this one of the coldest days I have ever banded birds but it was also my first ever experience bird banding in the parking lot of a car wash!  A family of four individuals was moved to a hacking cage at Buck Lake and then released 24 hours later.  A resident scrub-jay immediately joined the group and they began to set up a territory in the immediate area around the hacking cage.  Continued monitoring efforts will be vital in determining the effectiveness of these efforts.