Primarily due to loss and disturbance of their open beach habitat, Least Tern (Sterna antillarum) nesting colonies often occur on flat or gently sloped gravel rooftops throughout the Southeastern United States. Currently, these rooftops are being converted to a new substrate, unsuitable for Least Tern nesting, because of changes in state building codes. The purpose of this study was to determine which rooftops Least Terns are currently selecting to help develop man-made structures for nesting and determine where these structures should be placed. From 1998-2003 in Pinellas County, Florida, all previously occupied Least Tern rooftops were surveyed to see if they had a colony and new colonies were located. In 2003, there were 36 rooftops with colonies and 34 unoccupied rooftops that had been previously occupied sometime from 1998-2002 but still had gravel rooftops. In addition, 36 gravel rooftops that had no record of supporting a Least Tern colony were randomly selected. At each building distance to any body of water, distance to a large body of water, distance to a higher building, distance to another colony, height of building, area of rooftop, number of taller trees/poles within 50 m and number of trees that touched the roof were measured. Backwards stepwise regression indicated that only distance to water significantly predicted if a rooftop was currently or never occupied. These results indicate that even relatively small, low structures, located near any body of water may be judged suitable by Least Terns and have the potential to help add to the species’ overall productivity.
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Vol. 29 • No. 4