Because of its somewhat subtropical climate Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve (TCAP) supports considerable
biodiversity. In addition to 4 species of mangroves and 5 species of seagrasses, over 30 species
of algae have been identified. Approximately 300 species of invertebrates and 70 species of fishes
have been identified within the preserve.
Approximately 70 species of birds either nest in the preserve or frequent it. Foraging within the
habitats of the TCAP and adjacent upland wetland habitats is critical to sustaining the populations
of colonial waterbirds that nest on islands within the bay or on the nearby rookery islands. Three
colonial waterbird nesting islands occur within the boundaries of TCAP. Several other colonies
are within foraging distance. Reddish egrets, the rarest heron in North America, have a
population in Florida of only about 400 nesting pairs. Reddish egrets forage only in estuaries, on
open mudflats, exposed sand and grass flats. Therefore, the value of the nesting islands with
habitat suitable for reddish egret foraging activity within Terra Ceia Bay, and within foraging
distance of the Bay, is significant.
The habitats of the Terra Ceia Bay system are also very important to other bird species. During
the winter, the bay is extensively used by winter migrant bird populations and other duck species.
Nesting prairie warblers rely on the mangrove forest habitats. Mangrove cuckoos have also been
observed in the mangrove forests during the nesting season, and are suspected of nesting.
Shorelines of islands, especially along the west side of Miguel Bay and Rattlesnake Key, are
important to wintering and migratory shorebirds. Wilson's plovers use these shorelines and salt
barrens for nesting in the spring and summer and are residents all year long. In the spring and
fall, neotropical migrants and other songbirds use the mangroves and coastal hammock habitats of
Terra Ceia Bay and its watershed extensively.