For Hometown News
Least terns have been discovered nesting on Disappearing Island near Ponce Inlet.
A pair of birds was spotted May 14 by members of the Florida Shorebird Alliance's Volusia Shorebird Partnership as they conducted a routine shorebird survey in the inlet. Volusia County environmental specialists discovered additional nests May 16.
Least terns weigh just over an ounce and have a wingspan of about 20 inches. They have a grayish-white body with a black-capped head, narrow wings, yellow legs and a yellow bill. They nest on sandy beaches and rooftops in the southern United States and are aggressive in defending their nests.
Least terns are protected by state and federal laws, so the county's Environmental Management Division has posted signs on Disappearing Island advising people to stay out of the posted area and keep their pets on a leash.
Least tern eggs also are at risk because they are directly on the sand; they are well camouflaged and easy to crush if stepped on. After the eggs hatch, the chicks will remain vulnerable for about a month until they learn how to fly.
If people continue to disturb the birds, report their activities to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's wildlife alert hotline at (888) 404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com. Residents can also report unposted nests to the hotline.
According to Volusia County Environmental Specialist Jennifer Winters, several dozen pairs of least terns nest in Volusia County each year. The first nest spotted this year is exceptional because it's in a popular recreational site.
Disappearing Island appears during low tide each day as the water recedes in the inlet between Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna Beach. It is accessible only by boat. The birds have nested on a high, dry portion of the island that is not likely to become submerged.
For more information on shorebirds, visit myfwc.com/shorebirds or flshorebirdalliance.org.