This past weekend was another amazing family wildlife outing. For our newest adventure, I packed my parent, my husband, and my five year old artist in training into the car, and off we went to Deltona, Florida’s Lynonia Environmental Center. There, we learned some interesting environmental conservation facts, we got to pet a few small alligators and a blue tongued skink, and got to observe some examples of smaller Florida Marine life in the center’s aquarium.
The real attraction for us, though, we the Florida scrub jays for which the center is renowned. Visiting and seeing scrub jays up close has been a tradition in my family since I was little, and it was a real treat to get to introduce my daughter to this tradition as well.
The scrub jay is fairly small bird, right around nine inches long from the tip of its peak to the edge of its tail. Their coloring is a light gray under belly, with bright blue plumage on their head and wings. They eat everything from acorns to tree frogs, and are highly curious and social. The generations of scrub jays that have made Lyonia their home are so accustomed to these weird talk two legged things tromping around their habitat that they have been known to land on the occasional outstretched hand or to pick at that little silver button at the top of a ball cap.
Don’t let their coloring and cuteness con you though. The scrub jay is a character with some considerable constitution. Scrub jays are the only species of bird completely endemic to the continental US, in other words they didn’t migrate here on an epic scale, or get brought here by the earliest settlers and explorers. In fact, it’s currently accepted by the scientific community that scrub jays have exclusively inhabited the land that is now Florida for over two million years. To top that off, scrub jays live solely in areas that might be considered less than hospitable to you and me: dry sandy soil, frequent drought, and occasional wildfires.
If your in the mood to see an adorable bird up close, if you’re a Florida resident who feels a certain pride in our longest residing native, or if have an ecological fascination with tough and adaptable wildlife, be sure to visit a scrub land nature reserve and make a new friend with the Florida scrub jay.