Rooftop Nesting In Florida
Florida is home to unique shorebirds and seabirds that normally nest on undisturbed, open areas of beaches. But as the state’s beaches become more crowded, less space is available for these birds to nest on the ground. Because of this, many of these birds turn to gravel rooftops to nest and raise chicks.
Most shorebirds and seabirds that nest on rooftops are State Threatened species.
Any harassment or harm, even unintentional, could be considered “take” under State Law, 68A-27.003, Florida Administrative Code, and is therefore unlawful. Roseate terns have protections under the federal Endangered Species Act and disturbance would require a federal permit.
Rooftop breeding season takes place in Florida between March and August each year. You should always look for birds and chicks on rooftops during this time. It is recommended that routine maintenance and non-emergency repairs be conducted during non-breeding season, between September and March.
Visiting a rooftop where shorebirds or seabirds are nesting can be catastrophic for these birds. Their eggs and chicks are camouflaged and can be difficult to see. Visits to the rooftop can cause adults to fly away, leaving their eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators, extreme heat, and dehydration in the sun. When frightened, chicks may run off the roof edges or fall into open drains and gutters. If you encounter birds, eggs, or chicks on a rooftop leave as quickly as possible and contact your FWC regional office.
Removing eggs from a rooftop nest is illegal, and most often fatal.
Eggs are sensitive to heat stress and the embryos inside will die if they are not kept at the correct temperature through incubation. Moving eggs may also cause permanent damage by breaking the membrane inside that supports the developing chick. Shorebirds and seabirds are also unlikely to incubate eggs that are returned to a rooftop nest. If you see eggs or chicks on a rooftop, do not move or remove them.