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Bird Key

island, birds, lansings and warden


Bird Key, which is considerably smaller than Loggerhead, is only about 500 feet long by 300 feet broad and is now a government bird reservation for the sooty and noddy terns. These birds nest on this small island during the summer months. During the breeding-season for many years this key has been almost covered by these terns, which are now protected by the United States Government and the Audubon Society, and for this purpose a warden is stationed on the island from April to the end of August.

The writer can scarcely estimate the effect produced upon the vege tation of the island by the presence of the birds in such large numbers during the summer and in recent years of the warden, but as the birds live entirely on fish and the warden does nothing to change the physical character of the key these influences do not seem to be of great impor tance; but since Lansing's survey, in March 1904, a considerable change must have taken place.

Shortly after the Civil War, during the outbreak of yellow fever in Fort Jefferson on the adjacent Garden Key, Bird Key was used as a hospital site and several buildings were erected for the purpose, but we have no means of knowing what plants the key supported in that time, but it was probably during that occupation that Portulaca oleracea was introduced, now so prolific on the island. According to Lansing, the island was largely covered with Suriana, but if any plant predomin ates now the author would say it is Chamosycebuzifolia. The Suriana

is now confined to scattered groups in the northern and southern por tions of the island. The center is occupied by masses of Opuntia and large quantities of Chamasyce and Iva imbricata; Cakile and Cenchrus incertus are plentiful along the beaches, particularly of the eastern side. Tournefortia is abundant all about the edges of the inner vegetation. It seems to follow the contour of the shore, but keeps back from spray and salt mist. The eastern beach is largely crowded with the gray bushes of Tournefortia. Cyperus and Uniola are found most plenti fully on the southeastern tip of the key, but only in tufts and small areas. Around the warden's cottage and the old hospital building are several well-grown coconut palms, which have been planted since Lansing's survey. Near the buildings also are several large clumps of Sesuvium portulacastrum, while Portulaca oleracea is particularly well scattered on the northwestern shore.

The dominant community on the key is the Chamcesyce-Iva associa tion and the noteworthy changes on the island are the ascendency of this group, the decline of the Suriana (partly clue to storms), the disap pearance of Paspalum, and the introduction of Iva, Cocos nucifera, and Hymenocallis caymanensis, the latter two plants having been planted by man.

The present number of species for Bird Key is 14, as against Lansing's list of 12.