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ESR 45:99-107 (2021)  -  DOI:

Characterizing suitable habitat for the largest remaining population of the threatened Florida scrub-jay Aphelocoma coerulescens

Karl E. Miller*, Colin P. Shea

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 1105 SW Williston Road, Gainesville, FL 32601, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Birds that breed in early-successional shrubland habitats are declining throughout North America. The Florida scrub-jay Aphelocoma coerulescens depends on Florida scrub, a shrubland plant community endemic to peninsular Florida, USA. The Florida scrub-jay is nonmigratory, federally listed as threatened, globally listed as Vulnerable, and experiencing ongoing population declines. The largest remaining population occurs in Ocala National Forest (Ocala NF), where the effects of intensive management of scrub for forest product extraction are unknown. During 2011-2014, we conducted the first quantitative evaluation of Florida scrub-jay density and productivity at Ocala NF in relation to the age, size, and connectivity of early-successional habitat patches. Regenerating clearcut stands 3-10 yr post-harvest provided suitable habitat conditions for Florida scrub-jays, with the maximum number of family groups and juveniles occurring in stands 6.5 and 7.4 yr post-harvest, respectively. Our findings indicate that previous definitions of suitable habitat for the species in Ocala NF (e.g. 0-20, 3-15, 3-12 yr post-harvest) are overly broad. We suggest that managers define suitable habitat conservatively given that few stands >10 yr post-harvest were occupied by scrub-jays, and annual productivity in those stands was relatively low. Our findings that scrub-jays readily occupied small scrub patches and did not avoid forested edges should be interpreted with caution, and more demographic study is needed to understand survival and dispersal among patches. Managers can maximize Florida scrub-jay populations in Ocala NF by increasing the availability of habitat that is within 3-10 yr post-harvest.

KEY WORDS: Shrubland birds · Florida scrub-jay · Suitable habitat · Density · Productivity · Florida scrub

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Cite this article as: Miller KE, Shea CP (2021) Characterizing suitable habitat for the largest remaining population of the threatened Florida scrub-jay Aphelocoma coerulescens. Endang Species Res 45:99-107.

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