News Releases

Merritt Island Festival to celebrate Florida scrub-jay

News Release

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard County is hosting the second annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival Saturday, Feb. 12, from 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., to celebrate this true Florida native. The festival is designed to teach visitors about this beautiful bird and the scrub habitat on which it depends. Admission to the festival, programs and tours is free.

Biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partner agencies and organizations will lead guided tours at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to the second-largest population of scrub-jays in the state. Festival activities begin at 9:30 a.m., but to participate in an 8 a.m. Early Bird Tour, people must register in advance by calling 321-861-5601.

The Florida scrub-jay is a unique bird. It is the only bird found exclusively in Florida and, as its name implies, lives in a disappearing plant community called scrub, which is, well, scrubby. The Florida scrub-jay is listed as a threatened species, because its numbers are decreasing, primarily due to loss of the native scrub habitat it needs to survive. Scrub habitat is characterized by deep, well-drained, infertile sandy soils that are typically white or near-white. Historically, periodic fires maintained the scrub in a low, open condition favored by scrub-jays, but now much of the scrub around the state is overgrown and unsuitable for scrub-jays due to a lack of fire.

The festival will offer live music, guided nature walks; live animal displays; face painting, crafts and other activities for children; environmental exhibits; campfire programs; and hay rides. Scrub-jay bus tours into the Kennedy Space Center security area depart at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.  Visitors wishing to participate in the bus tours must make reservations by Thursday, Feb. 10, be U.S. citizens and be willing to have a space center background check.  Refreshments will be on sale by the Merritt Island Wildlife Association, the refuge's nonprofit friends group.

Festival sponsors include the Merritt Island Wildlife Association, the Florida Scrub-Jay Consortium, CSI Signs and Ace Hardware. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the education committee of the Northeast Florida Scrub Working Group organized the event. The refuge's education committee creates educational opportunities, promotes conservation and increases awareness of scrub habitat and the Florida scrub-jay.

For more information on the festival, including a detailed schedule of the day's events, visit or call 321-861-5601.

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