Least Terns adapt to new nesting sites


Least Terns are losing their nesting spaces. The Space Coast Audubon Society is holding a stewardship program for volunteers to help spot the terns..

VIERA VOICE Courtesy of Susan Petracco


Least Terns, listed as a threatened species in the state of Florida, have adapted to new nesting sites. But, often they need a human’s kind help.

“Terns are shore birds and eat fish,” said Anne Hicks, a volunteer and board member of the Space Coast Audubon Society. “They nest on gravel and sand but have been losing their beach nesting sites, now nesting on gravel roof tops. Looking for rooftops used previously, as they now are arriving again from South America, the Least Terns find them gone as building owners have recovered roofs in other materials.”

Hicks says Terns have found rooftop buildings in the area on which to roost, that also are near water and food sources.

The Audubon and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) collaborate with building owners and managers that have nesting Least Terns to try to harmoniously accommodate the Terns and the store patrons.

“Nearly 80 percent of the Least Terns are nesting on rooftops,” said the FFWCC. “The birds nest in flocks with an average of two eggs per nest. Within a few days after hatching, chicks start to walk around and can fall off roofs that do not have a lip of barrier or can become washed down a rain spout after a storm. Once on the ground they face numerous hazards.

That is where the kind humans come into play.

The Audubon has many concerned volunteer bird stewards who are trained on how to carefully assist the chick back to the rooftop. But more stewards are needed to participate in a Least Tern bird watch, according to Hicks.

“People are now being trained to train others. We will need volunteers all the way through August.”

Volunteers learn how to watch over the Least Terns and assist with placing the chicks, that might have fallen, back onto the roof using a “Chick-A-Boom” elevator pole. Volunteers will learn how to handle the birds, and to survey and report what they find every week.

Participants in the program are needed all around Brevard County. Four sites already with nesting Terns are Publix at 7777 N. Wickham in Suntree; Healthplex, 6300 N. Wickham, Suntree; Bealls in Rockledge and Health First, 3300 S. Fiske Blvd., Rockledge.

To become a volunteer, call Hicks at 919-928-1690 or email her at HelpingBirds-ofBrevardCounty@gmail.com.