In northern Florida, the Tallahassee Lakes provide significant winter habitat for ring-necked ducks and lesser scaup (Johnson and Montalbano 1987, 1989). Managed coastal impoundments at St. Marks NWR and Big Bend Wildlife Management Area on the Florida Gulf Coast provide winter habitat for about 10,000 ducks. Offshore, in the general vicinity of the Great Bend/Appalachicola Bay in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, up to 70,000 redheads over-winter, representing perhaps 5-10% of the continental population. This region also winters approximately 40,000 lesser scaup. Few waterfowl over-winter in the Florida Panhandle region. Numbers of waterfowl increase beginning at the Mobile Bay and Delta, where 5,000-10,000 ducks have wintered in recent years. Forested wetlands in the Tensaw-Mobile Delta provide important habitat for wintering and resident wood ducks, and a limited number of other species. Approximately 15,000-20,000 ducks, of which approximately 10,000 are lesser scaup, over-winter in coastal Mississippi bays and marshes.
Importance to other wildlife
The wetlands, estuaries, bays and associated beaches and mudflats provide significant habitat to a diversity of wading and shorebirds. Along the Atlantic Coast, intertidal areas provide significant winter habitat for American oystercatchers, short-billed dowitchers, and dunlins. These areas also are important migration and staging habitat for these species as well as red knots. Substantial numbers of shorebirds also occur in association with mudflats and beaches of the eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Coastal wetlands in this region are important habitat for resident, migrant, and wintering colonial water birds, including several species of herons, egrets, ibis, terns, and brown pelicans. There are at least 3 significant wood stork rookeries with over 700 nesting pairs occurring in the bottomland hardwood swamps of this region. Wetlands throughout this region support numerous colonies of great blue herons, common egrets, snowy egrets, little blue herons, and both black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons. Populations of these species are not quantified, but they are very abundant and wetlands in this region are very important to both residents and migrants. Nearly the entire U.S. population of endangered wood storks nests either in this region or the adjacent Peninsular Florida conservation region, with at least 3 significant wood stork rookeries with over 700 nesting pairs occurring in the bottomland hardwood swamps of this region (Gough et al. 1998).
One migrant and one resident population of greater sandhill cranes occur in this area. The Eastern Population, which breeds in Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan over-winters primarily in southeastern Georgia through central Florida. A resident population of cranes occurs in extreme southeastern Mississippi (Tacha et al. 1994). Much of the population of limpkins in North America occurs in association with cypress and bottomland hardwood swamps in the Florida and extreme southwestern Georgia portions of this region, with the remainder occurring in the Peninsular Florida region (Gough et al. 1998).
Barrier islands and some mainland beaches provide significant nesting habitat for loggerhead sea turtles. South Carolina is second only to Florida in numbers of nesting loggerhead sea turtles. These same islands support colonies of several species of terns and brown pelicans. In the Gulf of Mexico, offshore and near shore waters in the Big Bend region of Florida, west to Mississippi Sound, over-winter significant portions of the common loon population in eastern North America. The coastal marshes, bays, and estuaries also are essential nursery habitat for a variety of commercially important marine fish and shellfish, including red drum, flounder, speckled trout, blue crabs, brown shrimp and many others.
Forested wetlands in this region support a variety of neotropical migrant birds. Swainson's, hooded, and prothonotary warblers are common to uncommon in these areas, while swallow-tailed kites and red-shouldered hawks are locally uncommon and common raptors, respectively. At least two species that once were common to uncommon in this region are now extinct or believed so - the Carolina parakeet and Bachman's warbler. Pine uplands within and bordering this region support populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers and Bachman's sparrows.