Important Bird Areas

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Florida

A few small keys, adjacent uplands, and much open water encompassing the nation?s first National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1903. The Refuge receives 40,000 recreationists annually.

The establishment of Pelican Island as a National Wildlife Refuge by President Theodore Roosevelt began a federal land acquisition program that now protects over 93 million acres (37.2 million hectares) in over 500 refuges throughout the country. Pelican Island is a designated National Historic Landmark.

Ornithological Summary

Since 1858, Pelican Island has supported a colonial waterbird rookery that contains significant populations of several species. Only a rudimentary bird list is available. Since 1858, Pelican Island has supported a colonial waterbird rookery that contains significant populations of several species. Only a rudimentary bird list is available. The site supports significant populations of Endangered and Special Concern species; significant numbers of wading birds; and significant natural habitats.

Conservation Issues

From 1903 until 2000, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was patrolled by one man and one boat (USFWS 1999b). However, with increased attention paid to the nation?s first refuge on the eve of its centennial, the staff has been increased to four full-time employees. ? Pelican Island has eroded more than 50% since 1943, primarily from waves generated by increasing boat traffic in the Indian River Lagoon. Recently, oyster shell reefs have been created, and cordgrass has been planted, to stabilize the island. A wave break may be created to further reduce erosion. ? Public access to Pelican Island is forbidden. Signs currently are placed 100?300 feet (30?90 m) offshore, but will be moved to 410 feet (123 m) offshore. ? Exotic plants are controlled as necessary. ? 250 acres (111 hectares) of private lands (predominantly citrus groves) immediately east of the current Refuge boundary are sought for acquisition (at an estimated cost of $16 million) and will be restored to natural habitats. If these lands are acquired publicly, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge will be linked directly with Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge directly along the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, 15 acres on the mainland along the Indian River east of Sebastian are sought for public acquisition, with the intention of restoring the house and converting it to the Refuge Visitor Center. The property belonged to Paul Kroegel, who drew attention to the plight of Pelican Island in 1903 +(USFWS 1999b). ? The number of birds breeding at Pelican Island has declined dramatically over the past 100 years. Brown Pelicans declined from 5000 pairs in 1910 to 80 in 1999. Wading birds did not breed on the island until 1941, when 1354 pairs bred; this number had declined to 236 pairs by 1999.

Habitat

*mangrove forest, *maritime hammock, *disturbed uplands, tidal marsh, estuarine, coastal strand.

Land Use

*conservation, environmental education, recreation