Wildlife & Habitat

W H Pelican Island Indian River Lagoon 512w

Located in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast of Florida, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge supports important bird rookeries, key fish spawning sites, and a globally important juvenile sea turtle nursery.

  • Pelicans

    W H Brown Pelicans 150

    Brown pelicans can be found on the Refuge year round. White pelicans can be found on the Refuge lagoonal waters and impoundments from fall to early spring. Rarely, a juvenile white pelican can also be seen during the summer months.  

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  • Birds


    More than 140 species of birds use the Refuge as a nesting, roosting, feeding, or loafing area. At least 16 different species of birds nest on Pelican Island proper. The Pelican Island colony has been one of the most consistently active rookeries in the State of Florida.

    Bird Checklist 2010

  • Fish

    Fish Dasyatis

    A variety of fish species utilize the Refuge. Surveys list 782 fish species for east central Florida, with at least half of this amount occurring at some point of their life history in the Indian River Lagoon. Over 200 fish species are known to occur on the Refuge including smalltooth sawfish sturgeon, pipefish, goby, rivulus, and American eel. Anglers will be happy to know fish using the Refuge include tarpon, spotted sea trout, flounder, black mullet, red and black drum, ladyfish, mackerel, and bluefish.

  • Endangered Species

    Endangered Species West Indian Manatee

    The Refuge serves as an important site for the recovery of federal and state listed threatened and endangered species. The Refuge’s location and habitat features are important for the future of 14 federally listed threatened and endangered species, as well as for the future of 45 species listed by the State of Florida

  • Habitats

    W H Indian River Lagoon 150

    The primary habitats of the Refuge are lagoonal waters, including estuarine waters, seagrasses, drift algae, and exposed bottoms, hardwood forest, hammocks, lakes, mangrove swamps, mud flats, forested wetlands, scrub-shrub wetlands, non-vegetated wetlands, and spoil areas, and roadways.

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  • Mammals

    W H Mammals South Eastern Beach Mouse with Ear Tag_USFWS

    The Lagoon is used extensively by Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and West Indian manatees and both are commonly seen on the Refuge. At least 18 mammals are known to occur on the Refuge including bobcat, river otter, southeastern beach mouse, and marsh rabbits.

  • Reptiles and Amphibians

    W H Reptiles YellowRatSnake

    As a juvenile sea turtle nursery, the lagoonal waters of the Refuge serve critical needs for threatened and endangered sea turtles. Twenty seven reptiles and amphibians are known to occur on the Refuge including, eight snakes, eight frogs and toads, five sea turtles, and three lizards, as well as the gopher tortoise, diamondback terrapin, and American alligator.

  • Invertebrates

    W H Invertebrates150 Blue Land Crab

    A wide variety of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial invertebrates are found within the Refuge’s boundary. For example, the mangrove crab is found on the Refuge and is listed by the state of Florida. Some of the more common invertebrates include conchs, snails, oysters, land crabs, dragonflies, butterflies, and cicadas.

    Butterfly Leaflet 2010