Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) are an endemic corvid species in Florida, and specifically in scrub habitat in Florida which has significantly declined in spatial coverage in the last century. Scrub habitat has disappeared through many means, but the two primary modes have been urban and rural development and fire suppression. When scrub isn't burned often enough, larger species such as oak trees can take over, dramatically changing the vegetation community and in the case of scrub-jays, changing habitat suitability to a point where they will abandon the area. Estimates as of 2004 suggested that there were less than 8000 individuals left within about 10 localized subpopulations.
There has been a recent push to remove or reduce their protected status despite a noted decline in population size and habitat availability because, to put it quite honestly, these populations are in the way of prime developable land...
I also want to stress how important it is to NOT feed these birds. Interestingly these birds are very inquisitive and naturally tame and will approach humans, sometimes even landing on people's head for a closer inspection. Many people are tempted to use this opportunity to feed the animals and to be fair, I assume most people have good intentions of simply helping out a wild animal with a snack. This behavior however has been shown to be quite detrimental for many reasons, but one documented effect is that those that are fed tend to reproduce earlier in the year. This is problematic because the young feed almost exclusively on caterpillar species that are prevalent in the spring and summer, so if the young are born before spring, they can become malnourished or even die of starvation. On top of that, feeding them can encourage a sense of dependency on humans for food as well as lure them into areas of vehicular traffic.
It's such a treat to visit one of these populations and see these handsome birds up close. It's a neat opportunity to witness interesting behaviors between individuals because they aren't afraid of humans and carry on about their business as if you weren't there. They also often perch close nearby to observe you observing them which serves as a great opportunity for a close up!
I can never get enough of these reddish egrets (Egretta rufescens). They are so beautiful, especially with their breeding colors as shown here, but they are really entertaining to watch as they run around trying to catch fish. They'll stand perfectly still for a period of time, often stretching out their wings to create shade that attracts fish, then either try to grab them out of the water below them or they go running after them in the shallow waters. I managed to get a few decent shots despite the overcast conditions. I will have to take a video next time I have this close of a view to one, but in the meantime, watch this clip someone posted on Youtube:
More reddish egret info: