Key Largo roof work halted for two months due to nesting birds

kwadlow@keynoter.comJuly 5, 2014 

This is one of the live birds found on the roof of Trade Winds Plaza.


A crop of least tern chicks put a temporary stop to roofing work at the Trade Winds Plaza in Key Largo on Tuesday.

"A local environmentalist contacted the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center after noticing work about to start at the Trade Winds Plaza," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Bobby Dube, an agency spokesman.

Least terns, a protected migratory species of seabird, often nest on tar-and-gravel roofs since the quiet beaches they prefer have become scarce in Florida.

"Now they don't have a lot of other places to go," said Kayla Gainer, assistant rehabilitator at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier.

Trade Winds Plaza, at mile marker 101.4, is a known rooftop nesting site for least terns. FWC Officers Mike McKay and Roy Bogue climbed onto the plaza's roof to see if the pending work would disturb active nests.

The environmentalist's "concerns were correct," Dube said. "FWC officers located 15 active nesting sites with a total of 19 least tern eggs on the roof."

Three live chicks and two dead birds were found in the search, joined by Wild Bird Center staff. "The nests were not disturbed and the eggs were left in place," Dube said.

Least tern "babies don't do well in captivity," Gainer said. "That's why it's always best to leave them in the nests with the parents."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered the Trade Winds roofing work to be postponed until tern nesting season ends in late August, Dube said. "The building manager and the roofing contractor cooperated and compliance was achieved."

State and federal biologists will monitor the situation, Dube said.

Other Upper Keys buildings, like Bank of America branches in Tavernier and Key Largo and the Buttonwood Sound condominium, also host least tern nests, Gainer said.

The Middle Keys have fewer known nesting sites for terns. Several commercial buildings undergoing redevelopment were ordered to install tar-and-gravel rooftops (a fading technique) to preserve nesting sites, among them Publix and Walgreens.

Least terns are North America's smallest tern.

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