November 2019 Wrack Line Newsletter

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FSA Partnership Meetings:

November 18: Nature Coast Partnership, 1-4pm, Nature Coast Biological Field Station. Contact Megan Wallrichs.


November 1-3: Florida Ornithological Society Fall Meeting

November 2: Birds of the Beach at Rookery Bay 

November 6: Siesta Key Shorebirds

November 9: Shorebird & Migratory Bird Photography Workshop 

November 14: Shorebird Walk at Matanzas Inlet

November 23: Guided Shorebird Walk at Brevard County Barrier Island Sanctuary

FSA News


Audubon Florida Helps Protect Rooftop Nesting for Imperiled Seabirds in Brevard County

Have you ever pulled up to a store in Florida and noticed small white birds circling the rooftop, making a noise resembling a squeaky toy? You may have found yourself at a least tern (Sternula antillarum) nesting site!

Early each spring, least terns return to Florida from their wintering grounds in South America with the goal of finding a quiet stretch of beach or a gravel rooftop where they can nest. After undergoing a courtship ritual where the male offers the female a fish, the pair will create their nest by digging a “scrape” directly into sand, shell, or gravel and laying one to three eggs. Given their small size, these birds rely on safety in numbers and nest together in colonies ranging from a handful to hundreds of birds.

Over time, coastal development and disturbance on natural beach nesting areas have driven least terns to nesting on flat, gravel rooftops in areas where beach habitat is limited. While gravel rooftops can provide a safe place for least terns to raise their young, there are risks that come with rooftop nesting. As the result of disturbance or poor weather, flightless, downy chicks can fall over the edge of the rooftop or slide down drain pipes and end up on the ground. If the chicks survive the fall from the roof they are at an increased risk of predation, starvation, and even being hit by vehicles. Thanks to the help of a dedicated team of Florida Shorebird Alliance volunteers known as “chick checkers,” young terns that are found can be placed back onto the rooftop and reunited with their parents. While returning fallen chicks to the rooftop can be essential to their survival, it is an imperfect solution as not all the chicks will be found, and many will not survive the initial fall. In order to limit the number of chick falls, the best solution is to deploy a short, 6-inch tall fence on the rooftop around the colony and fence drainage holes.


Brevard County has become one of the most common areas for rooftop nesting along the Atlantic Coast, with over 15 active rooftops in 2018. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of rooftop monitors, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Biologists were alerted to three rooftops that were experiencing increased chick falls. In all, almost 70 chicks recovered during the breeding season (April to August) out of a total of 350 nests.

Property owners gave the FWC permission to deploy chick fencing at all three rooftops prior to the start of the 2019 nesting season. When supplies needed to be purchased for the fencing projects, Audubon Florida stepped in to help purchase the equipment needed to protect the rooftops. Thanks to the funding they provided, we protected the rooftops before the least terns returned in April. As a result of the funding that Audubon Florida provided, zero chicks out of 242 nests reportedly fell from these rooftops during the 2019 breeding season.

Without the funding from Audubon and the cooperation of the partners monitoring and chick-checking active rooftops in the Space Coast Shorebird Partnership these efforts would not have been possible. THANK YOU to everyone that came together to make this happen!

(photos by Jeffrey Liechty)

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FSD Updates

Did you know the 2019 Annual Report contains Florida-specific species fact sheets for our focal shorebirds and seabirds? Below is the fact sheet for the least tern. If you like this kind of information, read the Annual Report for more details!

2019 LETE Fact sheet

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Marine Quest 2019

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute recently hosted its 25th annual MarineQuest outreach event at Institute headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida. FWC staff showed off a realistic and interactive beach nesting bird display. The event, which normally spans over 3 days, was, unfortunately, cut short by one day due to inclement weather from Tropical Storm Nestor. However, the first couple days of MarineQuest still had over 1100 attendees from area schools.

Children (grades 4-8) learned about shorebird and seabird biology, threats, and how the Florida Shorebird Alliance works to research, manage, and conserve Florida’s state-listed species. Most importantly, these children learned how they and their friends can be good bird-minded beach stewards. If you didn't make it to Marine Quest this year, stay tuned for next year's event to be held in October. 

Special thanks to Joe Marchionno, Emma LeClerc, Nick Vitale, Cody Griffin, Andrew Cox, Becky Schneider, Megan Wallrichs, and all other FWC supporting staff for making this outreach event possible!

MQ 2019