At the mouth of Tampa Bay between St. Petersburg and Anna Maria Island. Three sites are in southern Pinellas County, Egmont Key is within the shipping channel of Hillsborough County, and Passage Key is extreme western Manatee County.

Several islands at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Fort De Soto County Park is well-known for attracting Neotropical landbirds. It is the southernmost part of a chain of barrier islands along the Gulf coast of Pinellas County. Before development of the park, the area was composed of five keys, but these were combined into a single island, Mullet Key, by dredging. The Park receives 2,700,000 recreationists annually. Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 and receives 81,000 recreationists annually. Shell Key Preserve is located just north of Fort De Soto County Park. It was spared from the dredge-and-fill development that characterizes many islands to the north and east, and now is a County Preserve. It receives 100,000 recreationists, mostly private boaters, annually.

In 1977, Fort De Soto was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge supports large populations of gopher tortoises and ?box turtles (Terrapene carolina). Sea turtles nest on the beaches. ? A lighthouse was built in 1848; it was rebuilt in 1858 and still stands. ? Fort Dade was built in 1882, and a town with 70 building and 300 residents existed from 1899?1916; the town's red brick roads still remain. Much of the fort has eroded into Tampa Bay. Some loggerhead sea turtles nest at Shell Key Preserve (Meylan et al. 1999 in

Ornithological Summary

These five sites are among the most important in Florida for wading birds, shorebirds, larids, and Neotropical migrants, and they support a great diversity of species. The colonial waterbird rookeries on Tarpon Key and Whale Key, two islands of Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge, annually contain 1215 species, making them one of the two most diverse rookeries in Florida. Fort De Soto County Park probably is the most famous migratory stopover site in Florida, and certainly is one of the state's most popular birding spots. The park is also important for shorebirds and larids. Shell Key Preserve is extremely significant for migrant and wintering shorebirds. Through 1999, Egmont Key supported only a colony of Laughing Gulls, but as nearby Passage Key continues to erode, several other larids (and Brown Pelicans) have moved to Egmont. Overall diversity is 305 native species, the seventh most diverse IBA in Florida.

Additional Data:
Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge
Breeding larids (B), 22 May 2001 - 14,244 prs
Diversity, 1998 list - 103 natives, 4 exotics

Fort DeSoto County Park
Shorebirds (W), winter 1993-94 - 1672
Diversity - 302 natives, 10 exotics

Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge
Brown Pelican (B), 1998-2001 - mean of 172 prs (range 65-326)
American Oystercatcher (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 6 prs (range 5-9)
Shorebirds (W), winter 1993-94 - 1754
Laughing Gull (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 3033 prs (range 1900-4700)
Royal Tern (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 1697 prs (range 37-2730)
Sandwich Tern (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 193 prs (range 0-450)
Black Skimmer (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 318 prs (range 250-405)
Breeding larids (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 5242 prs (range 2342-7405)

Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge (Tarpon Key and Whale Key)
Brown Pelican (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 254 prs (range 143-345)
Reddish Egret (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 4 prs (range 3-5)
American Oystercatcher (B), 1999-2001 - mean of 1 pair (range 1-2)
Colonial waterbird diversity, 1999-2001 - mean of 13 spp (range 13-14)

Shell Key Preserve
Snowy Plover (N), 1998-2000 - mean of 11 birds (range 10-15)
Wilson's Plover (B), 1998-2000- mean of 37 (range 31-50)
Piping Plover (W), 1998-2001 - mean of 41 (range 38-47)
Shorebirds (W), winter 1993-94 - 2594
Shorebirds (W), winter 1995-2000-1000-5000
Laughing Gull (B), 1995-99 (deserted 2000-01) - mean of 2370 prs (range 750- >5000)
Diversity, Oct 2001 list - 125 natives, 3 exotics

Conservation Issues

*human disturbance, *exotic plants, *erosion, *raccoons, development, habitat succession, cowbird brood parasitism, feral hogs

Ownership

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge, Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge, and Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge), U.S. Coast Guard (Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge), and Pinellas County (Fort De Soto County Park and Shell Key Preserve)

Habitat

Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge: *tropical hammock, *coastal strand, fields, artificial. Fort De Soto County Park: *temperate hammock, *fields, *mangrove forest, *tidal marsh, *estuarine, *coastal strand, slash pine flatwoods, tropical hammock, artificial. Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge: *coastal strand. Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge: *mangrove forest, estuarine. Shell Key Refuge: *mangrove forest, *coastal strand, *seagrass beds, tidal marsh.

Land Use

Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge: *conservation, historic preservation, recreation. Fort De Soto County Park: *recreation, historic preservation, conservation. Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge: *conservation. Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge: *conservation. Shell Key Refuge: *conservation, *recreation

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