The Florida Scrub-Jay lives only in Florida, in rare areas of oak scrub that must be renewed periodically by lightning-ignited fires. Seemingly inexorable development in the state has fragmented much of the scrub-jayâ€™s habitat, minimizing the occurrence of fire. Unburnt, the oak scrub tends to become overgrown and evolve into sand pine forest or oak hummocks, neither of which is suitable habitat for the bird. Extremely vulnerable, the Florida Scrub-Jay faces possible extinction.
Oak scrub is one of the rarest habitats in the Florida peninsula, diminished by perhaps 90 percent from the pre-settlement era. Indeed, most remaining Florida Scrub-Jay habitat is now on either public land or privately held land allocated to some purpose other than real estate development. Although the uses of such land are not inherently incompatible with the preservation of scrub-jay habitat, many remaining oak scrub areas have become so overgrown that they verge on being unsuitable for habitat.
Population and Trends
Gunnison Sage-Grouse population estimates range from 2,000 to 6,000 during the spring breeding season, with only one population â€“ in the Gunnison Basin of Colorado â€“ estimated to have more than 500 breeding birds. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources currently estimates the total population at 3,500. Unless effective conservation measures are undertaken, the numbers of grouse are likely to continue to shrink.
More land preservation could protect current habitat, but management of protected habitat is equally important. Ornithologists have a good understanding of how controlled burning can be undertaken so as to optimize habitat function without harming human interests. Audubon of Florida is helping private and public entities develop management plans for scrub restoration and management.