Important Bird Areas

Avon Park Air Force Range

Florida

Avon Park Air Force Range and the Sumica/Lake Walk-In-The-Water Tract. In southeastern Polk County and northeastern Highlands County about 10 miles (16 km) east of the town of Avon Park. Contiguous with parts of the Lake Wales Ridge IBA to the west, and the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and Lake Kissimmee Lake and River IBAs to the east.
Avon Park Air Force Range is a large, active military range used by the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard for live-fire bombing and gunnery practice. A state prison, juvenile detention facility, and numerous other buildings are located onsite. A majority of the Range remains in natural habitats, although 2,199 acres (889 hectares) are developed, and 19,728 acres (7983 ha; 19%) were converted to pine plantations in the 1960s and 1970s. Lake Arbuckle and Arbuckle Creek form the western boundary, while the Kissimmee River forms the eastern boundary. North of APAFR, the IBA encompasses a large, diverse area that is mostly undisturbed, although several hunting cabins and other dwellings exist. Ownership: U.S. Air Force (Avon Park Air Force Range), South Florida Water Management District and Polk County (Sumica Lake Walk-In-The-Water Tract), and the Florida Division of Forestry.

Ornithological Summary

Avon Park Air Force Range supports numerous listed species and is extremely important for three birds: the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Florida Scrub-Jay, and Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. The range also contains one of the largest populations of Hairy Woodpeckers remaining in the southern half of the Peninsula. Henslow's Sparrows appear to be regular winter residents in the prairies. Not much is known about avian use of the Bombing Range Ridge CARLFF Project, but it does support all species of longleaf pine flatwoods, including a significant population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, and a singing male Florida Grasshopper Sparrow was found in the southeastern portion on 15 May 1997 +(Delany et al. 1996b).

Additional Data:
Diversity - 165 natives, 3 exotics

Conservation Issues

Avon Park Air Force Range: *habitat succession, human disturbance, exotic plants, feral hogs, cattle grazing, bombing and gunnery exercises. Bombing Range Ridge CARL?FF Project: *development, *timbering, human disturbance, exotic plants, feral hogs

There are 20 active Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters on the Range, and 11 on the adjacent Bombing Range Ridge CARL?FF Project. The birds are color-banded and monitored regularly, and the population is stable +(Bowman et al. 1998a). ? The Florida Scrub-Jay population on the Range is color-banded and monitored regularly. The population has declined severely from over 100 groups in 1991 to about 50 in 2000. This decline primarily is due to past fire-suppression activities that have rendered oak scrub too overgrown to support scrub-jays +(Bowman et al. 1998b). In recent years, a ?massive? amount of oak scrub restoration has taken place to stabilize and increase the scrub-jay population (S. Orzell pers. comm.). ? Three apparently separate populations of ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows occur on the Range and all are declining. In particular the population at Bravo Range has declined since its discovery in 1997 from 21 singing males +(Delany et al. 1999) to 4 singing males in 2001 +(Delany et al. 2001). Causes of the decline are not certain. Prairies in which ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows breed are grazed for short periods during spring and summer. The long-term effects of livestock grazing on dry prairie vegetation is under study (S. Orzell pers. comm.), but the impact of cattle on sparrow nests is unknown. Prairies are burned on a three-year rotation. At the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, mostly burning takes place during late winter or early spring to avoid destroying sparrow nests by using fire during the nesting season. Long-term effects of off-season fires on prairie flora and fauna deserve study. Bombing and gunnery practice do not appear to have a significant negative effect on ?Florida? Grasshopper Spar

Ownership

U.S. Air Force (Avon Park Air Force Range), South Florida Water Management District and Polk County (Sumica Lake Walk-In-The-Water Tract), and private owners (remaining acreage of the Bombing Range Ridge CARL?FF Project; the Florida Division of Forestry will be the owner if the site is publicly acquired)

Habitat

*longleaf pine flatwoods, *slash pine plantation, *temperate hammock, *xeric oak scrub, *dry prairie, *freshwater marsh, sand pine scrub, sandhills, slash pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, cutthroatgrass seeps, non-native pasture, agricultural fields, cypress swamp, bayhead, cattail marsh, sawgrass marsh, wet prairie, riverine, lacustrine, artificial

Land Use

Avon Park Air Force Range: *bombing and gunnery practice, *conservation, *timber production, recreation, hunting, cattle grazing, state prison and juvenile detention facility. Bombing Range Ridge CARL?FF Project: *private property (potential development), *conservation, *hunting, weekend residences

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