Some Positive “Tern” of Events

June 24, 2022

A least tern and a royal tern were among the 114 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a river otter, a common nighthawk, four brown pelicans, a common ground dove and a Florida softshell turtle.

Least Tern Nestling Falls off Roof

The least tern was one of several found over the past two weeks by Naples Floral Design owner, Michael Longo. For the past five years, Michael has been rescuing least tern nestlings from the parking lot after they fall from the rooftops at the Bed Bath and Beyond Plaza on Airport-Pulling Road where his shop is located. 

Least terns are our smallest tern and a state designated threatened species.

Least terns inhabit coastal areas. Beaches have become overcrowded with people causing a loss of suitable nesting habitat along the coast; least terns have resorted to nesting on gravel-covered rooftops, which include the shops at the Bed Bath and Beyond Plaza. 

Nestling least terns can be swept down rooftop drain spouts during heavy rains or as they grow and become more active, they fall off the edge of the rooftops ending up in the parking lots below.

Wildlife Hospital Volunteer, Tim Thompson, brought the least tern to the hospital to check for any signs of injury, of which none were noted.

Baby least tern on table for examination

Collette “Col” Lauzau, Avian Specialist at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, provided information regarding the rooftop location where the least terns were nesting at that shopping center. With instructions from Col, Tim careful accessed the appropriate roof, ensured no further disruption to the nesting birds occurred and returned the young least tern to its colony. 

We are incredibly grateful to Michael for assisting the young, displaced least terns every nesting season. The kindness and concern shown to the terns has saved countless individuals from incredibly dangerous, often life-threatening situations.

Please pay attention when traversing large parking lots throughout the area. Nesting season for shorebirds and seabirds occurs between March and August.

There may be colonies of least terns nesting on the rooftops. If you see an animal that looks to be out of place, injured, ill or orphaned, take action and get the animal safely contained in a box. Call the staff (239-262-2273) at the Conservancy Wildlife Hospital. Staff will assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action. 

Call the wildlife hospital if you need guidance on how to contain and transport an animal. There are simple, creative options available to almost anyone such as a dog or cat pet crate, a box securely taped or bungeed closed, a brown paper bag stapled shut and a laundry basket with a towel taped over it are options we have seen people successfully use.

Hooked Royal Tern

A member of the public saw a Royal Tern sitting at the pier sitting still as people walked by the bird. As the rescuer approached the bird, he realized that there was a hook in the side of the birds face. The rescuer was able to contain the bird and bring it into the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. 

As you can see in this photo, the bird has an old hook that pierced through the side of the bird’s face right near the eye.

Royal tern hooked in the eye

Also, you can see the line is cut right at the hook. This means that someone had the bird in their hands  or somewhat contained and instead of bringing the bird into the wildlife hospital for us to remove the hook, they cut the line, left the hook, and set the bird on its way. 

If a bird or any animal is hooked, please do not cut the line.

It is best that if you have the bird contained to not remove anything and bring it straight to the wildlife hospital. Here at the wildlife hospital, our trained staff can administer pain medications and remove the hook safely. We also provide antibiotics as well because hook injuries can cause wounds that can lead to infections.

Luckily for this bird he was caught soon enough for the hook to not cause any further damage to his face or the wound to become infected. The hook has now been removed and he is recovering in the hospital.

Special Thanks

Chuck Schumacher, General Manager of Seapoint at Naples Cay rescued and transported a gopher tortoise to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Chuck mentioned even though tortoises are present on the dune area between Clam Bay, the master association has done a great job of placing signs and educating owners and guests to watch for tortoises so they have not had a previous instance of a tortoise injured on the property.

Chuck pulled video footage of the area where the injured tortoise was found; it appeared the tortoise was grazing under the passenger side of a parked utility van.

When the driver returned to the van, he was unaware of the tortoise and struck the tortoise. In light of the situation, Chuck restricted parking along the roadway edge and additional signs along dune edge and roadways will be installed to educate residents and visitors about the presence of tortoises in the area.

The quick action Mr. Schumacher took was inspiring; so often people have the mindset that there is nothing that can be done to protect wildlife from injury – this proves the exact opposite. Simple, yet effective actions can have incredibly positive result, thereby allowing humans and wildlife to coexist. Thank you and nice work Seapoint!

Recent Releases

A common ground dove, four gopher tortoises, a least tern, two ospreys, three Florida softshell turtles, four northern mockingbirds, two fish crows, a blue jay, a northern cardinal, a black-necked stilt, a red-shouldered and two raccoons were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital hosted a virtual Wildlife Hospital Baby Shower June 4 raising awareness and support for the hospital’s youngest patients. Hospital staff appreciates everyone who has already donated items in support of our work. Baby Shower gifts can be donated online through the Conservancy’s Amazon Wish List through the month of June. Visit Every donation supports the Conservancy’s work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.