Important Bird Areas

Cape Canaveral-Merritt Island

Florida

Cape Canaveral Air Station, 6247 ha
Canaveral National Seashore, 23335 ha
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, 56316 ha

In northeastern Brevard County and extreme southeastern Volusia County, encompassing most of the barrier island complex from New Smyrna Beach south to the town of Merritt Island.

A vast complex of barrier islands and a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, containing the Banana River, Indian River Lagoon, and Mosquito Lagoon, all large, brackish estuaries. The National Seashore and Air Station are separated from most of Merritt Island by the Mosquito Lagoon and Banana River, respectively. The Refuge and the Air Station are rocket launch facilities, and Space Shuttle missions are launched from the Refuge's Kennedy Space Center. Much of Merritt Island was purchased in the 1960s by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its massive space launch complex. NASA later deeded much of the property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to increase public use of non-essential acreage. Parts of the Refuge are off-limits to the public at all times, and other areas are closed when a Space Shuttle is scheduled to be launched. The Refuge receives over 650,000 recreationists and 12,000 hunters annually.

Ownership: U.S. Air Force (Cape Canaveral Air Station) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge; managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Canaveral National Seashore; managed by the U.S. National Park Service)

Ornithological Summary

Together, these sites form a large, contiguous conservation area vital to several listed species, and supports the second-largest remaining population of Florida Scrub-Jays. Merritt Island also contains extensive wetlands, and supports large numbers of waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and larids. Wintering waterfowl number in the tens of thousands, primarily Lesser Scaup and American Coots. Canaveral National Seashore was one of two sites from which the largest migration of Neotropical migrants in Florida was observed. Merritt Island Refuge formerly contained one of only two populations of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, but impoundment of salt marshes on the Island, primarily for mosquito control, was one factor that caused its extinction. Overall diversity is 313 native species, the fourth most diverse IBA in Florida.

Additional Data:
Canaveral National Seashore
Great Egret (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 385 prs (range 271-592)
Snowy Egret (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 442 prs (range 184-1224)
Tricolored Heron (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 368 pairs (range 188-733)
Reddish Egret (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 14 prs (range 9-17)
White Ibis (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 2112 prs (range 715-7226)
Glossy Ibis (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 174 prs (range 50-423)
Wood Stork (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 48 prs (range 0-122)
Wading birds (B), 1987-1993 - mean of 3904 prs
Wading birds (NB), 1987-1991- mean of 14064
Neotropical migrants (M), 17 Oct 1999 - "hundreds of thousands" of birds (60% Palm Warblers, 15% each Blackpoll and Cape May warblers, 5% Black-throated Blue Warblers, and 100s of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Gray Catbirds)

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge:
Wading birds (B), 2000-2610 prs
Dabbling ducks (W), average winter - 21,000
Diving ducks (W), average winter - 27,000
Shorebirds (W), winter 1993-94 - 4645
Diversity, undated list-1982? - 313 natives, 4 exotics

Conservation Issues

*human disturbance, *exotic plants, *habitat succession, *feral hogs, development

Canaveral National Seashore: Long-term fire suppression has resulted in heavily overgrown scrub habitat, and Florida Scrub-Jay populations have declined severely. Management currently includes mechanical treatment of scrub and prescribed fire. ? Exotic plants, primarily Brazilian pepper and Australian-pine, are serious threats. Seashore staff is working with the state and county to remove exotic vegetation. ? Impoundment for mosquito control has extensively altered the salt marshes. Many marshes are being reconnected to the Mosquito Lagoon to restore some of their natural functions. ? Cape Canaveral Air Station: A long history of fire exclusion has resulted in oak scrub on the Station becoming extremely overgrown, which threatens the continued survival of Florida Scrub-Jays onsite. Extensive habitat disturbance and fragmentation has occurred from development of launch facilities. Station personnel are conducting a moderate amount of scrub restoration, using mechanical means and controlled burning, but the effort is on too small a scale to allow the scrub-jay population to recover. The Station also has a large volume of traffic on many roads, which may further impact scrub-jays. ? Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: Long-term fire exclusion has resulted in heavily overgrown scrub habitat, and Florida Scrub-Jay populations have declined severely. Management for scrub-jays needs to be increased and accelerated, as numbers are declining from habitat succession. In the early 1990s, 500 groups of scrub-jays were estimated to occur?less than half that could occur with additional habitat management?and this number has been further reduced in recent years. Management currently includes mechanical treatment of scrub and prescribed fire. ? Invasive exotic plants (primarily Brazilian pepper and Australian-pine) are a serious threat, and are chemically and mechanically controlled. ? Extensive alteration of salt marshes for mosquito control has extensively altered the habitat by ditching and impounding, and helped to cause the extinction of the ?Dusky? Seaside Sparrow. As at Canaveral National Seashore, many impounded marshes are being reconnected to the Mosquito Lagoon. ? Trappers remove 3000 feral hogs per year. ? For other information on the ?Dusky? Seaside Sparrows, and the actions and inactions that drove it to extinction, see +(Sharp 1970), +(Delany et al. 1981), +(Walters 1992), and +Kale (1996).

Ownership

U.S. Air Force (Cape Canaveral Air Station) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Canaveral National Seashore, managed by the U.S. National Park Service)

Habitat

Canaveral National Seashore: *maritime hammock, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, *coastal strand, pine flatwoods, xeric oak scrub, citrus groves. Cape Canaveral Air Station: *xeric oak scrub, *coastal strand, maritime hammock, freshwater marsh, cattail marsh, tidal marsh, artificial. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: *slash pine flatwoods, *maritime hammock, *xeric oak scrub, *mangrove forest, *freshwater marsh, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, citrus groves, coastal strand, artificial.

Land Use

Canaveral National Seashore: *conservation, *recreation, hunting. Cape Canaveral Air Station: *military and commercial space launching facility, conservation. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: *commercial launch facility, *conservation, *recreation, hunting