The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Florida Forest Service, is relocating Florida scrub-jays to increase this threatened species' populations on public lands.
The goal is to relocate – or "translocate" – birds from a stable population in the Ocala National Forest to areas of restored scrub habitat not yet discovered by Florida scrub-jays.
Earlier this year, FWC research biologists relocated nine Florida scrub-jays from Ocala National Forest to Seminole State Forest, about 20 miles away. The translocated birds established new territories in their new home. Researchers will monitor each population's progress throughout this year's breeding season.
The Florida scrub-jay is one of the most imperiled bird species in North America. Most remaining populations are small – with less than 25 breeding pairs – and relatively isolated from each other. Florida scrub-jays are non-migratory and have difficulty dispersing long distances when their available habitat is fragmented.
Translocation is a strategy to improve population sizes, increase connectivity among populations, and preserve genetic diversity of this and other imperiled species. Previous efforts to relocate Florida scrub-jays typically involved small numbers of scrub-jays taken from private lands with a federal incidental take permit. The FWC and its partners hope that the current research project will help clarify when and how biologists can use translocation on public lands.
The partnerships with land managers provide vital assistance with the translocation experiments. U.S. Forest Service and Florida Forest Service staff are championing restoration and management of Florida scrub-jay habitat in central Florida by using prescribed burns. Prescribed burning is necessary to maintain the low and open structure of vegetation in Florida scrub habitat, which is critical to the survival of the Florida scrub-jay.
People can help Florida scrub-jays by supporting habitat management on FWC's Wildlife Management Areas. Florida's WMAs conserve nearly 6 million acres of well-managed habitat for scrub-jays and other wildlife. This year is the WMAs' 75th anniversary, so join us in celebrating events around the state!