PANHANDLE ROOFTOP NESTING SUMMARY FOR 2017

  There were 24 active rooftops for 2017 in the Florida Panhandle. Of these, six were abandoned early on in season due to weather, human disturbance, or heavy predator presence. Thirteen sites were counted as successful in producing at least one fledged chick from that rooftop.

This season the primary nesting birds on the rooftops were Least Terns. Black Skimmers, Gull-billed Terns and Killdeer also were observed nesting on rooftops. The 2017 nesting season had its share of hurdles from tropical storms wiping out lots of beach colonies and flooding rooftops, to extreme temperatures and failing AC systems requiring HVAC technicians to visit rooftops with birds present.

Both Audubon Florida and Florida Fish and Wildlife banded together to help protect the colonies from both the inclement weather as well as the human presence when it was required.

An estimated 925 adult Least Terns were counted during surveys, with over 400 estimated nests and 138 successfully fledged chicks. There were 53 Black Skimmers surveyed on the rooftop of the Pensacola Port Authority with 12 nests, but the Skimmers abandoned this nesting site prior to eggs hatching because of the presence of the 19 Gull-billed Terns also taking up residence on this same rooftop. These larger terns successfully fledged five chicks in 2017.

The final species surveyed in the Florida Panhandle nesting on rooftops were seven adult Killdeer successfully fledging six chicks, three on the SS Dixon Primary School rooftop in Pace and three on the Holley-Navarre Intermediate School rooftop in Navarre.

In Escambia and Santa Rosa counties there were five active sites. These included the Pensacola Port Authority and the Publix building on 9 Mile Road near Cantonment, as well as three Santa Rosa schools.

These schools were SS Dixon Primary in Pace, Milton High School, and Holley-Navarre Intermediate in Navarre. A special thank you to dedicated volunteers helping survey these sites, the Callaways, Justine Whitaker, Daniel Stangeland, and Krista Wilkes. They collected very valuable information and kept a protective eye over their respective rooftops.

A new development in 2017 was the partnership of Gulf Power and the use of their bucket trucks for a few surveys. This added an “above” vantage point where it was unavailable otherwise. The sites that were selected in Santa Rosa and Escambia to be surveyed by bucket truck were sites with limited vantage points.

While inside the bucket we were able to see down onto the rooftop from above and were able to count the exact number of adults both flying and sitting as well as the number of nests and chicks.

Gathering the data that was not available to be collected previously gave a more accurate snapshot of the productivity and success of those rooftops. Our surveys in May counted over 110 nests and seven downy chicks that would not have been able to be counted from the ground. We look forward to a continuing partnership with Gulf Power in future nesting seasons.

For the 2018 nesting season, Audubon Florida is looking forward to deploying more Least Tern and Black Skimmer wooden decoys on suitable rooftops in hopes of encouraging the adults to nest at given locations.

Two more sites will have chick fencing installed to keep chicks from falling off the roof onto the ground below, making them highly susceptible to predators and overexposure. These sites will be the Holley Navarre Intermediate School and Milton High School Band building.

If you are interested in being an Audubon Florida volunteer please contact Emily McKiddy, Rooftop Nesting Coordinator, at emckiddy@audubon.org. We have many different volunteer opportunities with different levels of commitment.

By Emily McKiddy

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