Important Bird Areas

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Florida

Located in southwestern Collier County, south of Naples, surrounding Marco Island, and east midway between Goodland and Everglades City. The Reserve includes co-managed submerged lands of Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is being maintained as a separate IBA. This IBA is contiguous with the Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge IBAs to the east, and is near the Big Cypress Ecosystem IBA to the north.

A large area of saline and wetland habitats protecting regionally significant coastal habitats. The Reserve includes the Rookery Bay Colony, which is two small keys designated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a Critical Wildlife Area. Briggs Nature Center is part of the Research Reserve. The Reserve receives an estimated 100,000 recreationists annually.

Along with Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is part of the most significant and pristine mangrove ecosystem in the U.S. ? The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has designated all tidal waters within the Reserve as Outstanding Florida Waters. ? Other listed species supported by the Reserve include ?golden leather fern (Acrostichum aureum),?clamshell orchid (Prosthechea cochleata),?Florida thatch palm (Thrinax radiata),?Florida tree snail (Liguus fasciatus), sea turtles, gopher tortoise, ?mastiff bat (Eumops glaucinus), and Florida manatee. ? Calusa Indians inhabited the area in the 1600s, and numerous shell mounds are still present. The Reserve also contains significant archaeological material from six post Civil War homesteads.

Ornithological Summary

The Reserve supports significant populations of wading birds, shorebirds, and larids (especially Cape Romano), and also supports upland species such as Mangrove Cuckoos, Black-whiskered Vireos, and ?Florida? Prairie Warblers (e.g., see the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge IBA, pages 259?260). Rookery Bay Colony serves as a significant breeding rookery and year-round roost for Brown Pelicans and wading birds. A small patch of xeric oak scrub that was never known to be occupied naturally by Florida Scrub-Jays has served as a translocation experiment since 1989. This population, which numbers two pairs, has required additional transplanted birds from Archbold Biological Station to be maintained. Ted Below has conducted bi-weekly dusk roost counts of the Rookery Bay Colony islands since 1977.

Conservation Issues

*offsite development, *human disturbance, *exotic plants, altered hydrology, runoff, feral hogs, monofilament fishing line

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: Increasing human development in the Naples area is creating additional human disturbance problems within the Reserve, especially near Marco Island. Efforts are underway to minimize disturbance and to increase public awareness of local environmental issues through the construction of an Environmental Learning Center (scheduled to open in 2003), and the construction of trails and boardwalks, informational signage, and public workshops. The larid colony at Cape Romano is closed to public access during the breeding season, and is posted and monitored weekly. ? Long-term monitoring stations assess water quality impacts from offsite developments and agricultural areas. ? Reserve staff and other agencies are pursuing acquisition of private inholdings. ? Large-scale removal programs for exotic plants, especially Australian-pine, Brazilian pepper, and ?latherleaf (Colubrina asiatica) are underway. ? Native habitats are prescribed burned. Rookery Bay Colony Islands: Wading birds are disturbed by boaters and recreational fishermen, and the latter often leave monofilament fishing line in the mangroves. ? Although the islands are a designated Critical Wildlife Area, additional protective measures have yet to be approved.

Ownership

State of Florida, managed by the Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas. The Ten Thousand Islands area is co-managed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Audubon Society and The Conservancy of Southwest Florida have leased 3700 acres to the state to be managed as part of the Reserve.

Habitat

*slash pine flatwoods, *temperate hammock, *mangrove forest 36,030 acres; 14,412 hectares), *tidal marsh, *estuarine, *open water, tropical hammock, xeric oak scrub, cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, cattail marsh, sawgrass marsh, riverine, lacustrine, coastal strand, seagrass beds

×