The current population of the island scrub jay, a rare California bird, is only a fifth of what experts had previously believed, a new study reveals.
The island scrub jay is a brightly colored blue and gray bird that is only found on Santa Cruz Island, about 17 miles off the coast, south of Santa Barbara.
The study was led by the Smithsonian Institution's Migratory Bird Center in Washington, D.C., and published in the journal Ecological Applications. According to its findings, the island scrub jay is one of the rarest birds in the United States, even though its population has increased in recent years.
"The bad news is that we only have about 2,500 of these birds left, a very small number for any species," says Dr. Scott Sillett, lead author of the study and part of the Smithsonian's Migratory Bird Center. "The good news is that we are seeing an increasing population trend. It appears that there has been about a 20 to 30 percent population increase in the last 25 years owing to a series of conservation actions on the island."
The study says that the island scrub jay has a population size similar to or less than that of other species currently listed as threatened or endangered in the United States. As a result of this study, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has raised the threat level for the species from "near threatened" to "vulnerable to extinction." However, neither the federal government nor the state of