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Banner Breeding Year For Threatened Bird Means More Birds Falling From Rooftops

Key West Wildlife Center
Fledgling least terns can fall off the rooftops where the birds breed.

  Least terns are having a banner breeding year in Key West.

That's good news — the seabirds are listed as threatened by the state of Florida.

But it also means more young birds are falling from the rooftops where many least terns nest.

"You've got cars down below. You do have them end up coming into contact with people, automobiles, lots of things that can cause them hazards," said Tom Sweets, executive director of the Key West Wildlife Center. "The fall itself, if they're young enough, can actually kill them."

Credit Key West Wildlife Center
Key West Wildlife Center
Least terns are listed as threatened by the state of Florida.

  Sweets is asking drivers in Key West to be extra careful near large flat-roofed buildings, like shopping centers, where the birds nest. Least terns originally nested on beaches, but as Florida's shores have gotten developed, some colonies have moved to gravel rooftops.

If you see a fledgling that has fallen off a roof, the best thing is to call your local wildlife rescue center. Sweets says the birds are a lot smaller than the chickens people are used to seeing on the streets in Key West.

He describes them as "little white puffballs when they're tiny, and the fledges are no bigger than your fist."

The Key West Wildlife Center is part of the Florida Shorebird Alliance, which monitors least tern colonies throughout the state.