Important Bird Areas

Withlacoochee-Panasoffkee-Big Scrub

Florida

Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area (11,000 acres; 4451 hectares), Flying Eagle SOR site (11,410 acres; 4617 hectares), Half Moon Wildlife Management Area (9520 acres; 3852 hectares), Hlpata Tastanaki Preserve (8148 acres; 3297 hectares), Jumper Creek Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest (10,068 acres; 4047 hectares), Lake Panasoffkee SOR Tract (10,340 acres; 4184 hectares), Panasoffkee Outlet SOR Tract (800 acres; 323 hectares), Potts Preserve (9341 acres; 3780 hectares), Ross Prairie State Forest (3521 acres [1424 hectares] acquired), and the Two-Mile Prairie Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest (2980 acres; 1206 hectares). Sites sought for public acquisition are Gum Slough SOR project (>16,000 acres [>6475 hectares], with 9843 acres [3983 hectares] acquired, mostly via perpetual conservation easement) and the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem CARLFF Project (7919 acres [3204 hectares] remaining; acreage to be added to Ross Prairie State Forest).

In eastern Citrus County, extreme southwestern Marion County, and northwestern Sumter County, along both sides of the Withlacoochee River. Lake Panasoffkee Preserve, a few miles (km) to the east, protects the entire eastern shoreline and adjacent uplands of Lake Panasoffkee. Near the Withlacoochee State Forest IBA to the west and southwest.
A rather eclectic mix of several existing or proposed conservation areas combined to create an IBA for the Florida Scrub-Jay. Limited information are available for most sites. Visitation is 1000 recreationists for Hlpata Tastanaki Preserve and 100 recreationists and 50 hunters for Ross Prairie State Forest. Visitation and hunter use of the other sites were not provided.

Ornithological Summary

The WithlacoocheePanasoffkeeBig Scrub IBA supports a significant population of Florida Scrub-Jays, a figure that could be increased with proper management of scrub habitats. Not much else is known about avian use of the sites, which mostly are recent state acquisitions. Only a rudimentary bird list is available.

Conservation Issues

*development (including roadway expansion), *habitat succession, *human disturbance, exotic plants

Most of the oak scrub on these sites is overgrown, and probably is negatively impacting the population. At Half Moon Wildlife Management Area, 17 FSJ groups were found in 1992 +(Jester and Sermons 1992, Pranty 1996b), but only 13 were found in 1997, and fewer are thought to 10 groups in 2002. The scrub-jays at the Wildlife Management Area are color-banded and under study. Similarly, at Potts Preserve, scrub-jays declined to only a single group in 2002, despite extensive habitat management. At H?lpata Taskanaki Preserve, on the other hand, the number of FSJ groups has increased from one group in 1996 to 9?10 groups estimated in 2002, as previously clearcut longleaf pine?turkey oak sandhill and semi-native pastures continue to succeed to oak scrub. Frequent fire and mechanical treatments (on 174 acres [70 hectares] as of 2002) maintain and increase scrub-jay habitats (M. Barnwell pers. comm.). ? Airboat operators have caused damage to portions of Potts Preserve, and have even removed boardwalks and bridges of the Florida Trail, a statewide hiking trail.

Ownership

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, and Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area), Florida Division of Forestry (Ross Prairie State Forest and Withlacoochee State Forest), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Half Moon Wildlife Management Area), Southwest Florida Water Management District (Flying Eagle SOR Tract, H?lpata Tastanaki Preserve, Lake Panasoffkee Preserve, Panasoffkee Outlet SOR Tract, Potts Preserve, and Two-Mile Prairie State Forest), and private owners (remaining acreage of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem CARL?FF Project and the Gum Slough SOR Project)

Habitat

*longleaf pine flatwoods, *freshwater marsh, *riverine, pine plantation, sandhills, temperate hammock, xeric oak scrub, sand pine scrub, fields, non-native pasture, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, cattail marsh, lacustrine, artificial

Land Use

*conservation, *hunting, *timber production, recreation, cattle grazing