Important Bird Areas

Greater Apalachicola Bay

Florida

Apalachicola Bird Island, 3.2 ha;
Cape St. George State Reserve, 928 ha;
Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park, 794 ha;
St. George Island Causeway, 20 ha;
St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, 5054 ha;
Yent Bayou, 20 ha;

Located off the coast of southwestern Franklin County, where the Apalachicola River and several barrier islands form Apalachicola Bay. Apalachicola Bird Island is located about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) south of the western end of the John Gorrie Bridge. St. George Island Causeway is about 4 miles (6.4 km) long and connects the island with the mainland at Eastpoint. St. George Island is about 4?8 miles (6.4?12.8 km) south of the mainland; Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park occupies the eastern end of the island, about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the causeway. Cape St. George is between St. George Island and St. Vincent Island, about 6?8 miles (9.6?12.8 km) off the mainland. St. Vincent Island is the westernmost island, 0.25 miles (0.4 km) off the mainland at Indian Pass. Yent Bayou is on the mainland about 7 miles (11.2 km) east of Eastpoint and about 6 miles (9.6 km) west of Carrabelle Beach, bounded on the west by Royal Bluff. The Greater Apalachicola Bay IBA is just west of the Dog Island?Lanark Reef IBA.

Sea turtles nest along the beaches. ? The St. George Lighthouse, on Little St. George Island, was built in 1852. At that time, the lighthouse was 1330 feet (400 m) from the beach, but erosion of the island has brought the shoreline to its base. The lighthouse now is being stabilized to prevent its collapse. ? St. George Island State Park contains some virgin ?cat-faced? slash pines from the turpentine industry active in the early 1900s. ? St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge is a breeding site for the critically Endangered ?red wolf (Canis rufus). ? Apalachicola Bay is a designated International Biosphere Reserve, and a National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Ornithological Summary

The islands are regionally important for breeding and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds, and for breeding larids. Portions of St. George Island, St. Vincent Island, and Yent Bayou have been designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as Critical Habitat for wintering Piping Plovers. Wooded portions of the State Park and Refuge support Neotropical migrants. Apalachicola Bird Island also supports breeding shorebirds. St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge supports an apparently large population of Black Rails, and its hammocks are important for Neotropical migrants. The Refuge also marks the western limit for the dark-eyed subspecies of the Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major westoni; +McNair and Lewis 1999). Overall diversity is 273 native species; lists have been compiled for only St George Island State Park and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.

Conservation Issues

Bird Island: *human disturbance. St. George Island Causeway: *human disturbance. St. George Island State Park: human disturbance. Yent Bayou: *development (adjacent uplands), *human disturbance. St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge: *human disturbance.

Apalachicola Bird Island is posted from April through August to prevent disturbance to the breeding colony. The island is maintained as a bird nesting area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by adding dredged material every few years. Cape St. George State Reserve: Prescribed fire is used to maintain the condition of pine flatwoods and savannas, and exotic plants are removed as needed. ? Dogs must be leashed at all times. ? The larid colony on the St. George Island Causeway is subject to high mortality from motor vehicles. To reduce bird deaths from vehicles, the speed limit on the causeway is reduced to 35 mph (56 kph) during the breeding season, and the colony is fenced to keep young birds off the road. A new bridge is being built between the mainland and St. George Island; when this is completed, the existing causeway will become an island managed for nesting birds. ? St. George Island State Park: Most of the dunes in the state park are off limits except along paths; private portions of the island are undergoing extensive development. ? St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge contains populations of feral hogs and ?sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) native to southeastern Asia; these are remnants of previous owners who used the island as a hunting reserve. The deer are retained for recreational opportunities, while feral hogs are considered a pest species; numbers are controlled by hunting. ? Yent Bayou: Uplands are residential lots, which have begun to be developed. It is not known whether development of these lots will impact shorebird use of the tidal wetlands.

Ownership

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge), State of Florida (Bird Island; Jeff Gore, and submerged acres of Yent Bayou), Florida Department of Transportation (St. George Island Causeway, Florida Division of Marine Resources (Cape St. George State Reserve), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park), and private owners (uplands adjacent to Yent Bayou).

Habitat

Bird Island: *artificial (spoil island). St. George Island Causeway: *artificial (grassy causeway). St. George Island State Park: *slash pine flatwoods, *coastal strand, temperate hammock, sand pine scrub, sawgrass marsh, tidal marsh, estuarine, coastal grasslands, artificial. St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge: *pine flatwoods, *sand pine scrub, *estuarine, *fresh water marshes, temperate hammock, coastal strand. Yent Bayou: *estuarine, coastal strand, housing lots

Land Use

Bird Island: *dredged-material disposal area, conservation. St. George Island Causeway: *transportation, conservation. St. George Island State Park: *conservation, *recreation. St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge: *conservation, *environmental education, hunting, fishing, recreation. Yent Bayou: conservation (sovereign wetlands), recreation, residential (uplands)