Least Terns are small migratory birds that arrive on the Florida coast in early April to court and raise their newest generation of offspring in the summer.

These social seabirds set up in colonies on the beaches and barrier islands and create shallow scrapes (their nest cups) in the sand in which to lay their eggs.

If you head down to the beaches between April and August you will hear and see colonies of Least Terns nesting with Black Skimmers along Gulf Islands National Seashore and Navarre Beach.

Due to increasing human presence on our beaches and barrier islands, Least Terns are taking to alternative nesting sites. Some of these non-traditional habitats include causeways, spoil riverine islands and gravel rooftops.

In Northwest Florida, there are over 50 rooftops that have been sites for Least Tern nesting in the past five years. While this seems like a simple solution to the crowded beaches, tar and gravel rooftops are gradually becoming a thing of the past.

Companies are converting to a membrane texture that is not suitable nesting habitat. This newer membrane rooftop is preferred most of the time because it is much less costly to install and is much more reflective, cutting down on energy costs.

The population of Least Terns is now listed as “Threatened” in the State of Florida. With nesting locations becoming harder and harder to find, these birds need our help! Our efforts would not be enough without amazing volunteers. Volunteers are needed for all sorts of different roles – from stewarding on the beach in the summer, taking short weekly surveys of rooftops, and installing “chick fencing.”

If you are interested in volunteering in some capacity please contact me.  The need for volunteers is most concentrated from March to September, but in the winter offseason we do lots of outreach and educational presentations if that is your interest. Please continue to help support and protect the Least Terns and rooftop nesting!

There is a rooftop fencing project I need volunteers for in Destin, on Destin Harbor.  It is scheduled for March 14th at 10 am.  I also need a rooftop surveyor for a few locations in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties:

MDV Nash Finch Distribution Plant – 4150 West Blount Street, Pensacola

Dollar Tree / Winn Dixie- 8654 Navarre Pkwy, Navarre

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

By Emily McKiddy