The man-made island, known as Manbirtee Key, is the result of Port Manatee's original dredging project in the 1960s. The port partnered with Gulfstream Natural Gas System and Audubon of Florida in a multi-million dollar project converting the spoil island to a thriving bird sanctuary. Manbirtee Key has attracted more than 120 species of birds since its restoration in 2003 and the number of nesting species are on the rise.
The island was constructed to suit a wide range of nesting and feeding habitats. Invasive plant species, overgrown vegetation and predators (such as raccoons, possums and snakes) were removed from the island.
Due to the low disturbance level and distance to predators from the mainland, even threatened species are making a comeback to the island
The bird sanctuary and the new seagrass meadows flourish with plant and animal life, demonstrating that ports and nature not only can coexist, but can thrive.
The name Manbirtee Key comes from the winning entry in a local "Name the Island" contest for elementary school children. The name is a combination of the words man, bird and manatee.
In March 2014 Port Manatee's Senior Director of Planning, Engineering and Environmental Affairs, George Isiminger offered the MCPA board members a tour of Manbirtee Key. The Bradenton Herald accompanied the tour and put together the following short video: