Florida Scrub Jay Festival 2021
Savannas Preserve State Park is home to an estimated 22 Florida Scrub Jays. They live in primarily oak dominated scrub and within well-defined territories. The Florida Scrub Jays' territories at Savannas Preserve State Park are not accessible to the general public in order to keep their populations protected.
Every summer, trained Jay Watch volunteers are invited to visit the park to take part in the annual census conducted following fledging--the only time the juveniles are distinguishable from the adults. The volunteers note the band color combinations and number of adult and juvenile Scrub Jays present in each territory.
Scrub Jays are particular about the habitat they inhabit; they prefer low growing oaks and open, exposed sandy patches for foraging and caching acorns. Dense vegetation and sand-pine dominated canopies reduce foraging opportunities and the increase the likelihood of predation by hawks, including the Cooper’s Hawk.
Prescribed fires conducted every 5 to 20 years are one way to optimally maintain these habitats. Savannas Preserve actively manages Scrub Jay habitat with prescribed fire. In some cases, mechanical treatment reduces canopy and increases the influence of prescribed fire.
In an effort to restore Scrub Jay habitat damaged by early 20th century agricultural practices, a volunteer project is underway to re-plant oaks in affected areas. A research project with Archbold Biological Station since 2019 studies the effects of genetic drift in a small Scrub Jay population. This research and citizen science projects, like Jay Watch, help to monitor Scrub Jay populations and determine if conservation efforts are successful.