PHOTO OF THE DAY: American Bald Eagle Occupies Nest Near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

By  //  February 13, 2023

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Merritt Island National refuge traces its beginnings to development of the nation’s Space Program

An American bald eagle was spotted occupying a nest near Kennedy Parkway North at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 8. The Merritt Island National refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the nation’s Space Program. (NASA image)

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – An American bald eagle was spotted occupying a nest near Kennedy Parkway North at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 8.

Each year, eagles take up winter residence at the Florida spaceport, breeding and raising a new generation.

The center shares a boundary with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals and 15 federally listed species.

The Merritt Island National refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the nation’s Space Program.

In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but the development of most of the area was not necessary. In 1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish the refuge, and in 1975 a second agreement established Canaveral National Seashore.

Today, the Department of Interior manages most unused portions of the Kennedy Space Center as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.

The refuge manages habitat for over 500 species of wildlife. These habitats support one of the highest numbers of endangered and threatened species found within the National Wildlife Refuge system.

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The Merritt Island Wildlife National Refuge possesses some of the largest alligators in the state of Florida. (NASA Image)

The refuge’s coastal location, tropic-like climate, and a wide variety of habitat types contribute to the refuge’s diverse bird population. To date, 358 species have been identified on the refuge.

More than 140 species of freshwater and saltwater fish are known to use refuge impoundments, estuaries, and freshwater wetlands. Fish within the refuge are essential to the ecology of the area and recreation.

The habits of the refuge include wetlands (both salt and fresh water), upland shrubland, wetland forest, mesic and upland forest, and beach and dune.

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Exotic, invasive, and nuisance plant and animal species is one of the priority management issues for the Merritt Island NWR. Nuisance animal species have a negative impact on threatened and endangered species.

Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of habitats and wetland ecosystems and can be found in many areas of the Refuge.

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