The original 1,287 acres of the WEA were acquired
to conserve the gopher tortoise population found in the dry
longleaf pine sandhills on the area. In addition to the gopher
tortoise, protected species such as the eastern indigo snake,
gopher frog, southeastern American kestrel, Sherman's fox squirrel,
sandhill crane and Florida mouse occur here.
Water levels within the wetlands fluctuate yearly
and seasonally, creating ephemeral ponds that support frogs and
other amphibians, fish and wading birds. Conditions are highly
variable and dry or wet conditions may persist for extended
Wildlife Spotlight: Southeastern American
American kestrels, once called sparrow hawks, are
the smallest and most common falcon in North America. Look for them
on the conspicuous perches they prefer-telephone wires or dead
trees on the edges of fields or other open areas. From these
vantage points, kestrels swoop in to capture insects and small
lizards and mammals, usually on the ground. They also hunt for prey
by hovering like helicopters over favored habitat.
American kestrels are widely distributed from
Alaska and Canada to South America. From mid-September to April,
many kestrels from the eastern United State winter in Florida. In
addition, a declining subspecies, the southeastern American
kestrel, breeds in the state and is a year-round resident. It is
difficult to distinguish the residents from the migrants, but a
good rule of thumb is to consider any kestrel found in Florida
between May and July to be the resident subspecies.
For successful reproduction, kestrels need a
cavity, ideally an abandoned woodpecker hole in a dead tree.
However, they readily use manmade nest boxes. Historically, in the
Southeast, the fire-dependent longleaf pine-turkey oak sandhill
habitat provided both large dead pines for nesting and open patches
for foraging. Much of this ideal habitat has been lost to
residential development and agricultural uses or has been degraded
by prolonged periods of fire suppression. As a result, the
southeastern American kestrel is listed as Threatened by the
This spring, after migratory kestrels depart for
their northern breeding grounds, make a point to notice the
resident subspecies. Resident breeding kestrels are uncommon,
especially in southern Florida, but can sometimes be found in
sandhill habitats in peninsular Florida. Males and females are
colorful and distinctive. The male has blue-gray wings, a rufous
back and a broad, dark band near the end of a rufous tail. The
female has rufous-and-black barring on its wings, back and tail.
Both sexes have a black-and-white face pattern. Females are
generally larger than males.