Egmont Key’s pristine habitats make it a safe haven that supports over 117 species of nesting, migratory, and wintering birds, provides nesting habitat to the threatened Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles and protects an unusually large population of gopher tortoises and box turtles. Egmont Key holds the highest density of gopher tortoises in all of Florida with over 1,500 of these tortoises in just 280 acres. Gopher tortoises are so common on Egmont Key, that visitors may encounter them on almost every trail, year-round.
From April to August, Egmont Key’s beaches are colonized by the sights and sounds of thousands of birds nesting and roosting together within the wildlife sanctuaries. Egmont Key supports more than 35,000 pairs of colonial beach-nesting birds. Royal and sandwich terns, brown pelicans, and laughing gulls make up the majority of the colony. Known as colonial nesters, these birds find safety in numbers. Egmont Key holds the highest nesting colony of laughing gulls in the entire state of Florida. Over 7,000 pairs of royal terns have nested on Egmont Key, which makes it one of the highest nesting royal tern colonies in the state. Around 550 pairs of black skimmers have also nested on Egmont Key NWR. Although the nesting colonies lie within the closed bird sanctuary boundaries, visitors can see hundreds of these birds foraging around the island’s shores. In addition, there are several species of wading birds wondering the island and over 10 species of shorebirds can be commonly seen from most of the island’s shores, including a few that nest on the island during the summer months (e.g. oystercatchers).
Snorkeling around Egmont presents visitors with an underwater experience of its own, including underwater encounters with the submerged historical structures batteries Burchstead and Page, that once laid on dry ground. These structures often host corals, tunicates, sponges and many fish species worth viewing from a unique underwater historical realm.