Q:

What eats Florida scrub-jays?

A:

Quick Answer

Florida scrub-jays have a variety of natural predators, but their most common predators are cats, snakes and birds of prey. Additionally, raccoons, squirrels and other birds frequently consume scrub-jay eggs and hatchlings.

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Full Answer

Florida scrub-jays are a vigilant species. Because they form small family groups, one member is usually tasked with the duty of looking out for predators. If this bird — called a sentinel — sees a hawk, it emits an alarm call, and all the other nearby scrub-jays dive for cover until the predator has left the area. By contrast, when the lookout bird spies a terrestrial predator, such as a snake or cat, it gives a different type of alarm call, which spurs the other nearby jays to emit vocalizations and begin pestering the intruder — a behavior termed mobbing.

Florida scrub-jays are the only bird species endemic to Florida; they are found in the scrub habitats throughout the central portion of the state. Florida scrub-jay populations are declining, but habitat destruction and fragmentation are more important factors for their disappearance than predators are. Fire suppression strategies disrupt the natural cycle of the scrub habitat, and the lack of periodic fires has negatively affected the Florida scrub-jay population.

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