The Importance of the Refuge
The waters and wetlands of PINWR (Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge) form a complex ecological system supporting hundreds of species of birds, fish, plants, and mammals.
A dozen federally listed threatened and endangered species live here, including the endangered West Indian Manatee, roseate tern, piping plover, wood stork, green sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and hawksbill sea turtle.
Species listed as threatened include the loggerhead sea turtle, Atlantic salt march snake, eastern indigo snake, southern bald eagle, and Arctic peregrine falcon. Other common wildlife includes the raccoon, bobcat, osprey, ground doves, river otter, opossum, and many varieties of neotropical and resident songbirds.
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is located within the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically diverse estuary in the United States. Situated on Florida’s central eastern coast, the Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by six inlets that run through a barrier island. The lagoon provides habitat for more than 2,200 animal species and 2,100 plant species, including 700 species of fish, 310 species of birds, and 36 endangered species. Due to its location along the Atlantic flyway, the refuge has the most diverse bird population in North America.
Pelican Island NWR also provides habitat for the endangered manatee, contains large parcels of Florida’s east coast mangrove forests and salt marshes and is home to some of the healthiest sea grass beds in the Indian River Lagoon. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the western hemisphere, is co-managed by the Pelican Island Refuge Complex.
Nesting Birds of PINWR
An abundant fish population provides food for the large number of water birds that nest on Pelican Island. Nesting birds include the brown pelican, the great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, reddish egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, tri-colored heron, black-crowned night heron, wood stork, white ibis, double-crested cormorant, anhinga and American oystercatcher. While nesting activity has been recorded at Pelican Island every month of the year, the principal nesting period extends from February through September and reaches a peak in April and May.
Bob Montanaro, a local photographer maintains a website called “Osprey Watch” with comments on, and current photos of osprey nesting within the Refuge. Please visit Osprey Watch to read Bob’s comments and view his pictures of the osprey of Pelican Island NWR. His website also features many other links to osprey information too.
Birdwatching, wildlife photography, and sport fishing are the most popular forms of recreational use associated with the refuge. While public use of the island proper must be held to a minimum to avoid disturbance to the nesting birds, there are opportunities to view and photograph nesting activities from a reasonable distance offshore.
The Birds of Pelican Island
Over 30 species of birds use Pelican Island as a rookery, roost, feeding ground, or loafing area. 16 different species of birds nest on Pelican Island, including the Brown Pelican, Wood Stork, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green-backed Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Double-crested cormorant, Anhinga, White Ibis, American oystercatcher, Common moorhen.
Wintering birds include the White pelican, double-crested cormorant, Roseate Spoonbill, Blue- wing teal, Lesser scaup, Red-breasted merganser, Ring-billed gull, Forster’s tern, and Common Loon.