Beach-nesting birds, such as terns and plovers, are struggling to survive in Florida, often because of the intense disturbance by recreational beachgoers. Flushed from their camouflaged nests in the sand, adult birds watch helplessly as eggs and chicks are exposed to the hot sun and predators, or are crushed by unwary pedestrians, dogs or drivers.
One Florida beach species, the threatened Least Tern, has found a partial solution: many now choose to nest on gravel rooftops. However, these “beaches in the sky” have their own perils: chicks fall off roofs and perish. Audubon Florida's Rooftop Program and “chick-checking” volunteers return these fallen chicks to their rooftops to rejoin their parents. Audubon staff work with building owners outside the nesting season to install fencing along unprotected rooftop edges to keep chicks from falling in subsequent seasons. Recognizing this is only an interim solution—because rooftops are no replacement for real beach habitat— we also help by encouraging public land managers to protect beach nesting areas, and we staff the posted areas on busy weekends with volunteer bird stewards, who act as ambassadors for the birds.
Here at Audubon, we recruit volunteers to assist with on-the-ground wildlife and habitat management. The benefits to wildlife are immediate and connect people with nature. This connection is a gateway for volunteers to quickly become educated on regional conservation issues, stay engaged for longer tenures, and move from volunteerism to advocacy.