That Time of Year for The Scrub Jay

I see these birds almost every day of the week so I can tell when their behavior changes. Today was that day for the Jays. I encountered a Jay out of his usual territory. Not only was he out his usual area, he was much more aggressive chasing away other birds, including Blue Jays and Cardinals. I am no ornithologist but my gut feeling is this has to do with mating season. It’s about that time.

While mating season should be celebrated , especially for the endangered Scrub-Jay, it is hard to do so when you know the big picture and inevitable outcome. The Jays here are on a “Jay island” in that they do not interconnect with Scrub-Jays in any other area. In fact, most of Florida’s Scrub-Jay populations are on an island of sorts.

The main Jay corridor runs through the center of the state up to Ocala National Forest. They are able to branch out and mate with birds not from their immediate area hence keeping the gene pool diversified. Any Jay not connected to that corridor is on an island and is destined to go extinct.

The Jays where I live are essentially stuck in a one square mile area with a total of 12-15 birds and have been for decades. This means that they are essentially inbreeding and this will eventually cause a genetic bottleneck resulting in birds that are not able to grow and defend themselves properly. Experts have translocated Scrub-Jays with little to no success. The transplanted birds simply freak out and disappear. This is to be expected from a species that stays within a small area for its entire life cycle and becomes an expert at everything that enters and exits that area.

Back to today’s hike. After I encountered the one Jay out of his usual area I later encountered two more that were beyond their usual range as well. They were very busy looking around. I didn’t see them gathering any nesting material but you could tell that they had an agenda.

image from colesters_classroom on Instagram

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