Important Bird Areas

Big Bend Ecosystem

Florida

Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve and adjacent properties, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park. Along the Gulf of Mexico encompassing most coastal portions of Taylor, Dixie (Horseshoe Beach and Horseshoe Jetty), and Levy counties. Nearly contiguous with the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge IBA to the northwest, and contiguous with the Citrus County Spoil Islands IBA to the south.

A great expanse of tidal marshes, coastal hammocks, offshore islands, oyster rakes, mudflats and adjacent uplands stretching nearly continuously for 120 miles (192 km) from the Aucilla River southward to the mouth of the Withlacoochee River. Hagens Cove is a small non-hunted portion of Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. Part of this IBA has been designated by Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area. Together with other IBAs, this habitat encompasses about 200 miles (320 km) of Gulf coastline, nearly all of it continuous, from the Ochlockonee River to south of the Pithlachascotee River in Pasco County. Big Bend Wildlife Management Area: Numerous Indian middens and burial mounds occur onsite. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge: Atsena Otie Key contains the remnants of the original (1890s) town of Cedar Key, while Seahorse Key contains a Civil War cemetery and the Cedar Key lighthouse. Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge: Numerous Indian middens and burial mounds occur onsite; the Shell Mound site is well-known. Main roosting areas for the globally significant overwintering population of American Oystercatchers are Horseshoe Beach and Jetty, Shired Island, Shell Mound, Cedar Key, and Corrigan's Reef.

Ornithological Summary

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge supports one of the largest wading bird rookeries in the northern half of the Peninsula, and a large roost of Magnificent Frigatebirds. The Cedar Key area contains significant numbers of shorebirds, including very large numbers of wintering American Oystercatchers. Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve and adjacent properties once supported a viable population of Florida Scrub-Jays, but this has declined severely in the past 20 years. The IBA is also extremely important for breeding Short-tailed Hawks, and tidal marshes support large numbers of Scott's Seaside Sparrows. A 76.6-acre (31-hectare) marsh study site northeast of Cedar Key (just outside the IBA boundary), supported 49 pairs of seaside sparrows in 1981 +(McDonald 1982). Overall diversity is 279 native and 2 exotic species.

Conservation Issues

Big Bend Wildlife Management Area: offsite development, increased human use. Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve: *offsite development, *habitat succession. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge: cowbird brood parasitism. Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge: none.
Big Bend Wildlife Management Area: There are few management concerns, but there is no legal protection to prevent vehicles from driving into marshes. Restoration of natural communities is part of the management strategy. Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve and adjacent private properties formerly supported a regionally significant population of Florida Scrub-Jays, but lack of fire management has reduced the population to very low levels (by 1999, only 7 groups remained, with 6 of these on private lands). Without immediate restoration of scrub habitats at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve?coupled with acquisition of adjacent privately owned scrub?the future for this population is bleak. Most of the remaining scrub-jays have been color-banded and are under study by staff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The State should vigorously pursue scrub acquisition efforts in the Cedar Key?Sumner?Rosewood area, and take immediate steps to properly manage scrub habitats at Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve.

Ownership

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge and Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve and Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Big Bend Wildlife Management Area), and private owners (properties north and east of Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve)

Habitat

Big Bend Wildlife Management Area: *temperate hammock, *pine flatwoods, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, sand pine scrub, artificial. Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve: *pine flatwoods, *temperate hammock, *xeric oak scrub, sandhills, sand pine scrub, sawgrass marsh/willow swamp, artificial. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge: *temperate hammock, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, *coastal strand, mangrove forest. Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge: *pine plantation, *cypress swamp, *freshwater marsh, *sawgrass marsh, *tidal marsh, *riverine, *estuarine, longleaf pine flatwoods, sandhills, temperate hammock, xeric oak scrub, fields, bayhead, cattail marsh, lacustrine, coastal strand.

Land Use

Big Bend Wildlife Management Area: *conservation, *hunting, recreation. Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve: *conservation, *hunting, recreation. Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge: *conservation, recreation. Hagens Cove: *recreation, conservation. Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge: *conservation, *hunting, recreation, timber production.