St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Refuge Wildlife: The Reason for the Refuge

Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

You will discover that St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to spot wildlife. Indeed, it was established in 1931 to protect habitat for migratory birds, and today, it continues to protect natural habitat. Yet, did you know that St. Marks NWR represents one of 500+ National Wildlife Refuges? Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this diverse system of refuges encompasses over 92 million acres of lands and waters and spans the continent from Alaska's Arctic tundra to the tropical forests of Florida; from the secluded atolls of Hawaii to the moose-trodden bogs of Maine. St. Marks NWR contains a diverse variety of enviromentally sensitive habitats that provide food, cover, and protection for many species of wildlife. The natural salt marshes, tidal flats, and freshwater impoundments found here attract thousands of waterfowl and other birds. The salt marshes also provide valuable spawning and nursery areas for commercially important fish, shrimp, and shellfish. Refuge inland hardwood swamps support other birds as well as a broad range of mammals including the Florida Black Bear, white-tailed deer, otter and raccoon. Whether you are interested in birds, frogs, mammals, snakes, alligators, butterflies and/or newts, chances are that you will find it during a visit to this unique wildllife refuge. Knowing when to visit is important, so with this in mind, the following wildlife-calendar has been provided to assist you in planning your visit and maximizing your chances of spotting wildlife.


Clear cool days are great for spotting wildlife such as bobcats, deer, bear, and river otter. Kestrels, red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks are commonly seen along Lighthouse Road. Bald Eagles begin to nest.


Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

Waterfowl are commonly seen in the Refuge pools and in Apalachee Bay. Eagles are nesting. Otters and bobcats can be seen in the early morning and late afternoon.


Great Blue herons begin nesting. Great horned owls are feeding their owlets. Ospreys return to the Refuge. Wood ducks begin nesting and bluebirds work on their nest cavities.


Spring migration begins. Ibis and white pelicans migrate through the Refuge as the ducks head north. Alligators can be seen basking in the sun on warmer days.


Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

Ospreys and red-cockaded woodpeckers are nesting. Eaglets begin to fly. Warbler and shorebird migration peaks early in the month. Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites can be seen along the roads and pools.


Purple gallinules can sometimes be seen in the East River Pool and Plum Orchard Pond behind the Visitor Center. Wood storks are occasionally viewed in Headquarters Pond. Ospreys are feeding and shading their young. Larger groups of West Indian Manatees can be seen in the waters of the lighthouse.


Turkey broods are present in refuge woods. Deer are often seen with their fawns. Ospreys, red-cockaded woodpeckers, purple gallinules and moorhens all have young fledglings.


Large flocks of white ibis, eastern kingbirds, and purple martins are seen along Lighthouse Road. Wood storks are often seen in the shallow waters of headquarters pond.


Baby alligators are hatching from their nests. Deer are busy caring for newborn fawns. The arrival of blue-winged teal signals the start of the fall migration.


Bald eagles return to nest, and many butterflies, including the sulfur, swallowtail, and skipper feed along the roadsides. This month also sees a blaze of brilliant autumn wildflowers.


This month sees the arrival of the migratory Monarch butterfly. Viceroy, Queen, American Painted Beauty and Fritillary (silverspot) butterflies are also common. Northern harriers return to hunt over the refuge marshes.


November generally brings in the cold weather, so butterflies and wildflowers become scarce. Waterfowl populations reach their peak between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Last updated: August 17, 2010