Sep 14, 2022 - News

Photographer captures Hillsborough County's last scrub jay

The last scrub jay in Hillsborough County.
Photo: courtesy of Russell Mav Photography

Then there was one.

Photographer Russell McBurnie has been documenting a scrub jay in the Golden Aster Scrub Nature Preserve, near Gibsonton, believed to be the last of its kind in all of Hillsborough County.

Flashback: Once bountiful, the scrub jay population plummeted as Florida filled up with people, roads and buildings.

  • A survey 12 years ago counted some 10,000 on the peninsula, the only place in the world where they are found.

Yes, but: Most of the scrub jays live in four large groups, with the remainder spread over a smattering of small colonies doomed by disconnection. That's the case in Hillsborough County.

Zoom in: Birders counted three scrub jays in the Golden Aster preserve six years ago.

Want to hear something sad? The solo jay doesn’t know why there are no other jays around.

  • "Scrub jays live a very social life with their entire life being dedicated to the role they serve within a large family dynamic," McBurnie tells Axios. "So I can't help but imagine that every day it surveys its territory, sometimes calling for others and looking out for others, not realizing the circumstances of the population."

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