Rooftop Nesting Steward Program

Rooftop Nesting

Rescued Least Tern chick before being returned to it's rooftop nest.

Due to human disturbance on Pinellas County’s beaches, some beach-nesting birds have taken to an alternative nesting habitat: gravel rooftops. Least Terns, Black Skimmers, and American Oystercatchers, all threatened species in Florida, have all adapted to nest on rooftops.

Least Terns, Black Skimmers, and American Oystercatchers are threatened species in Florida, largely due to human development and related activity that has heavily impacted Florida’s beaches. As their traditional nesting habitat has been impacted, these species have found an alternative habitat to nest and raise their young: gravel rooftops. A substantial proportion of Florida’s Least Terns now choose to nest on gravel rooftops as a surrogate for overcrowded beaches. Gravel rooftops, however, come with a unique set of challenges for nesting birds.

St. Petersburg Audubon Society has been involved with conserving and monitoring rooftop-nesting birds since the 1990s. Volunteers have helped to educate building owners about the birds, modified rooftops to make them more bird-friendly, and returned countless fallen chicks back onto rooftops.

photo - Jeff Liechty

Volunteer opportunities

Volunteers are needed to monitor historic nesting rooftops throughout the nesting season (March-August). At some sites where chicks are vulnerable to falling off the roof, volunteers are needed to check the site periodically to search for fallen chicks and return them safely to the rooftop where their parents will continue to care for them. Typical volunteer activities include monitoring tern activity at historic colony sites, educating property owners/employees/residents of buildings with rooftop nesting, rescuing chicks from the ground and lifting them back onto rooftops using a chick-a-boom, and recording and submitting important data.

If you are interested in getting involved please contact:

Jeff Liechty, Suncoast Rooftop Nesting Coordinator, Audubon Florida jliechty@audubon.org