Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1929, a time when wading bird breeding plumage was highly valued for proper ladies hats. Species were slaughtered and their numbers dropped dramatically.  Coastal Refuges were established to provide safe breeding and nesting grounds as early as 1903. 

  • Rookery

    ibis parents flying for freshwater food

    Once 200,000 birds nested in the Cedar Keys; now, the numbers near 20,000.  Egrets, night herons, brown pelicans, white ibis, cormorants, and in the past few years, reddish egrets and roseate spoonbills have made themselves at home in the Seahorse Key rookery. Parent birds must fly thirty plus miles up the Suwannee or to alternative freshwater sources to gather food for their young that is not salty, in order not to dehydrate the young. 

    To protect the nesting birds and their young, the island's beaches and a 100 yard perimeter are closed to public entry from March 1 through the month of June. After the young have left the nest, the Cedar Keys Refuge staff hosts a FREE open house on Seahorse Key, opening its light house the first Saturday after July 4th. Call 352/493-0238 for more information.

  • Mangroves

    mangrove growing along shore

    Before climate change, this was the most northern location for mangroves.  Hard freezes knocked them back some winters and they would recover during milder winters. Since water temperatures have warmed so much, all three species of mangroves, white, black and red have taken a foothold that is difficult to believe for those who have lived here all their lives.