Audubon Florida News

Florida’s Special Places: Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge

posted on January 3, 2011 in FL Special Places

This week’s nominee for Florida’s Special Places comes thanks to CedarKey Cindy, one of our earliest supporters.¬† Florida’s Special Places is driven by the passion of people like you. Audubon of Florida encourages you to get outside and enjoy some of the natural splendor that our state has to offer. Take some photos and tell us your story of the land on our Facebook Page.

This week, Cindy has nominated Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. I hope you enjoy her nomination as much as we did! Thanks Cindy!

Submitted by CedarKey Cindy on our Facebook Page:

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is likely one of the least known refuges on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Located about 1 hour southwest of Gainesville, Florida; the Cedar Keys NWR covers about 800 acres on 13 keys (islands) in the Gulf. Most of the keys are tiny; the two most significant keys for visitors are Atsena¬†Otie Key – about 1 mile from the dock in the town of Cedar Key and Sea Horse Key – approx. 5 miles from town. For bird watchers and naturalists, the NWR is one of the “must sees” on a short list of Florida destinations.

Largely undeveloped and closed to the public during breeding season (March through July) Seahorse Key is a bird-watcher’s dream. Only accessible by boat, the branches of coastal trees are filled with birds – carrying on quite loudly! Species I’ve seen include: Frigate birds; Brown Pelicans; White Ibis; Roseate Spoonbills; Little Blue, Great Blue, Yellow-Crowned Night, and Tri-color Herons; Willets; Snowy and White Egrets; Osprey; Wood Storks; and Cormorants. I’ve also seen seasonally White Pelicans, Skimmers, Oyster-Catchers, Common Loons, and various water fowl. The interior of the island is off-limits to the public. The birding is excellent and doesn’t require much patience!

The town of Cedar Key is located on Way Key and is home to about 1,000 year round residents. Far-off the beaten path of most Florida tourism, island residents are clam farmers, fisherpersons, artists, and tourism business owners/operators. While tourism is now a significant portion of the community’s income, there are no chain restaurants or shops, the closest stoplight is about 30 miles away; and Mickey doesn’t come to Cedar Key. While touted as being like “Key West” before it became popular, Cedar Key has its own charm and low key approach to life. Cedar Key is Old Florida at its best. But, I’m partial to the place.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


  1. Thank you Jonathan for letting more folks know about the Cedar Keys NWR and the island city of Cedar Key Florida!

    Comment by CedarKey Cindy — January 3, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  2. Hi Cindy, I’m seeking information about the American Oystercatchers…those that migrate here for the winter. I’ve been told there are VERY large numbers at Cedar Key, but with no specifics. I’d appreciate your help or anyone else who knows about the subject. Thanks Dale

    Comment by Dale — January 6, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  3. Hi Dale,

    I have seen oystercatchers on occasion, but don’t know about large numbers. You might want to check with the FRIENDS of Lower Suwannee:!/pages/Friends-of-the-Lower-Suwannee-Cedar-Keys-National-Wildlife-Refuges/160173380675865

    or their website:

    And they can probably help you!


    Comment by CedarKey Cindy — January 8, 2011 @ 5:38 am

  4. Dale,

    I sent your comment to one of our field staff. Here is his response:

    There are indeed a large number of American Oystercatchers that migrate to and overwinter at Cedar Key. Most of the large roosts occur on islands, jetties, and oyster shell rakes and access to good views requires a boat. Lots of good information about American Oystercatchers can be found on the American Oystercatcher Working Group website: You can find specifics about the Cedar Key birds at the Florida research page:

    Keep in mind that many of these birds have undergone a long migration to Florida and are resting to build up reserves for the flight home and upcoming breeding season. While in pursuit of those perfect views, please give the roosting flocks a wide enough berth so as not to disturb and flush them.

    Hope this helps! Thanks!

    Comment by Jonathan Webber — January 12, 2011 @ 8:02 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.