Florida Scrub-jay

Scientific Name: Aphelocoma coerulescens


Florida scrub jay, Merritt Island NWR, FL Jack Rogers
Florida scrub jay, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Fla. | Jack Rogers

This songbird is found only in Florida, where it lives in the rare scrub ecosystem. Scrub habitat is located on ancient dune ridges in central Florida and is characterized by sand pines, sand live oaks, myrtle oaks, scrub oaks and other plants that can survive in nutrient-poor soils. Florida scrub-jays can be found in patches of open sand with an open tree canopy.

Refuges where the Florida scrub-jay can be found:


Only about 3,000 Florida scrub-jays remain, and they are listed as a threatened species. Their habitat is disappearing quickly because of residential and commercial development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking several steps to help the Florida scrub-jay, including maintaining scrub habitat through prescribed burns and protecting it from human interference.


With its limited range, small numbers and vibrant colors, the Florida scrub-jay is a special creature, and birdwatchers flock to Florida just to catch a glimpse of this species. Curious, smart and tame, scrub-jays will perch on a person’s head or arm, or eat food out of someone’s hand.

Florida scrub- jay, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Francine Baer
Florida scrub- jay, Merritt Island  National Wildlife Refuge, Fla. | Francine Baer

Adults have a blue head, tail and wings, contrasted with a light gray belly and white throat. Females and males are virtually indistinguishable, but a female makes a distinct “hiccup” noise. Using their long black beaks, Florida scrub-jay feed on acorns, seeds, insects and small vertebrates. They are one of only a few cooperative breeding bird species, meaning the young stay with their parents for two to three years until they leave the family to find a lifelong mate.

What the Refuge Association is doing:

Beyond the Boundaries: Everglades

Help us protect important habitat in Florida for the Florida scrub-jay and other animals. Our Beyond the Boundaries program is working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to conserve land, water and wildlife in Florida’s Greater Everglades. Stretching from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in the north to Big Cypress National Preserve in the south, the Greater Everglades contains dry prairies, longleaf pine savannas, expansive working ranchlands and seasonally wet grasslands. This relatively intact landscape is the home for rare Florida scrub-jays and other unique creatures. Learn more.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/wildlife/birds/florida-scrub-jay/