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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Florida's Only Endemic Bird

[Southwest Florida, November 2012]

The US is not known to be a hotbed of endemism (unlike South America) and therefore the observation of any US endemic is cause for justifiable excitement -- all the more so, then, when the one (and only) Florida endemic -- the Florida Scrub Jay is encountered. Thanks to Bob Pelkey's tireless efforts in documenting the birdlife of Southwest Floirda, I was able to spend a fruitful morning in Cape Coral where Florida Scrub Jays have been sighted.

These scrub jays (comprising 2 families) have moved to their semi-urban environment in Cape Coral relatively recently and have also unwittingly created a "problem" for the city. Unlike other birds (witness the decline of burrowing owls in this area) which have had to yield to the inexorable bulldozer of "progress", the Florida scrub jay is listed on the Federal Endangered Species List and therefore cannot easily be dispensed with.

This has necessitated the creation of a mitigation plan by the City which goes to considerable lengths to allay the concerns of the ordinary citizen wondering why they need to be bothered, or worse yet, financially encumbered, with protecting this threatened Florida endemic.


In any case, these charismatic and intelligent corvids are here to stay and, for a species in decline everywhere else in Florida due to loss of habitat, their present situation seems nothing short of "divine justice" at work -- a threatened species re-establishing itself in its former habitat.

Inquisitive and highly confiding, these gregarious jays probably number no more than 8,000 in Florida (and hence in the whole world) and there has been in the recent past an energetic movement to make it the state bird of Florida in favor of the Northern Mockingbird. I for one, would gladly lend my support were the scrub jay to be thus elevated.

In addition to the jays, the surrounding habitat of oak scrub and grasslands attracts other species as well including Northern Harrier, Burrowing Owl and Eastern Meadowlark.

The medowlark is a shy icterid that, better than 9 times of 10, I've managed to successfully photograph only from the back. I was hoping my luck this time would afford perspectives other than the posterior view.

A side view raised hopes that it would turn to face the photographer and then ...

.. a turn in progress ...

.. was followed by a full frontal -- photographic mission accomplished!

In contrast to the meadowlark, the burrowing owl, also found somewhat commonly in the area, is generously forthcoming in providing good frontal views -- especially of its piercing yellow eyes.

Seen here right off Kismet Parkway in the midst of urban sprawl.

This small patch of land in Cape Coral shows that at least some species are still making a tenuous stand and somewhat successfully clinging on to whatever habitat is still left unmolested from rampant development.

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