Fledglings of the Florida Scrub

Anna FasoliField Work, Science1 Comment

Over the past week I have put my kestrel duties on hold to help with Florida Scrub-Jay surveys in the Ocala National Forest. I haven’t spent very much time in the forest since handing jay training over to my co-worker in February, so I really enjoy any time I can get roaming through the scrub (chigger bites aside).

Lately, it has been hard to walk through the scrub without coming across some kind of recently fledged bird. The most common species in the scrub is by far the ‘White-eyed’ Eastern Towhee. This subspecies of the Eastern Towhee is found only in Florida and eye color can range from bright white to pale yellowish-brown, as opposed to its ‘Red-eyed’ northern counterpart. The fledglings of this species are extremely curious and it is hard to miss their clumsy flight and crash landings as they fly in to check out the jay calls coming from our mp3 players.

‘White-eyed’ Eastern Towhee – juvenile

‘White-eyed’ Eastern Towhee – juvenile

‘White-eyed’ Eastern Towhee – adult male

White-eyed Vireo fledglings are also abundant and equally as curious as their parents.

White-eyed Vireo – juvenile

White-eyed Vireo – juvenile

Blue Jay fledglings can often be found hiding in the forest edges, and today we found a Florida Scrub-Jay fledgling only a few trees away from a Blue Jay fledgling. Both were calling to their parents, who had likely left them behind for a morning foraging expedition through the scrub. Unfortunately the Blue Jay fledgling evaded my camera lens!

Florida Scrub-Jay – adult top/left, juvenile bottom/right; note “gray-headed” appearance of juvenile in comparison to adult as its feathers continue to come in

During jay surveys, fledgling scrub-jays are often the first to appear out of the scrub, likely mistaking the calls of the mp3 player for their parents. Their parents usually appear quickly in response to the calls of their chicks, and escort them back into hiding.

Florida Scrub-Jay – juvenile

Florida Scrub-Jay – juvenile

Florida Scrub-Jay – juvenile; ‘gray-backed’ appearance is unmistakable from behind

Florida Scrub-Jay – adult

For more information about this important Florida endemic species, please visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Florida Scrub-Jay page.