A fantastic Audubon partnership with a popular Panama City beach hotel came to life recently. The Chateau by the Sea, a member of the By The Sea Resorts family, hosted the first “Carwash for the Birds” with big support from Audubon Florida and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The goal of this carwash was to bring to light the unique position this hotel has in being host to over 250 Least Terns nesting and raising their chicks on the hotel's flat gravel rooftop. This colony is the largest rooftop colony of Least Terns in the Florida Panhandle and with this number of birds comes a great deal of mess! Audubon and FWC wanted to find a way to say 'thank you' to Chateau by the Sea for being such great hosts and protectors of these imperiled seabirds so they offered to clean the mess off hotel patrons’ vehicles.
Audubon and FWC staff and a group of dedicated volunteers showed up to brave the Florida summer heat and wash cars not just in the hotel's lot but any that stopped by for a cleanup. The large amount of street traffic helped get a steady stream of cars coming through to enjoy a free carwash as well as learn about the nesting birds. The carwash raised donations to go toward Audubon's Coastal Bird Stewardship Program and raised awareness about the protected birds nesting on gravel rooftops and beaches. Plans are already in the works to have a bigger and better event for next summer, so stay tuned!
Due to high levels of beach recreation, development and predator pressures, nesting on the beach is challenging for the small Least Tern. Gravel rooftops offer an alternative habitat for the Least Terns to be successful in raising their chicks. Success at sites like the Chateau By the Sea largely depends on the willingness and cooperation of the building owners and staff to help protect the nesting birds. From all of us at Audubon Florida and FWC --- "THANK YOU" to Chateau by the Sea and our other business owners that go above and beyond for their feathered rooftop guests each year!