About 30 pairs of Least Terns knew exactly where to turn to hatch their babies — the graveled roof top of the Habitat ReStore on Big Pine Key.

“The wildlife officials told me this is a close approximation of a coral beach where they normally lay eggs and raise their young,” said Tom Greenwood, manager of the resale store that benefits Habitat for Humanity.

Greenwood said the proper authorities have been notified. And staff at the store have also been advised not to disturb the process by either climbing on the roof or intervening when the little ones fall to ground and take up residence in the shady, grassy areas bordering the store.

“If you watch, you see the parents swoop down and feed them on the ground,” Greenwood said.

The smallest of American Terns, the Least Tern nests on sandy beaches (or gravel rooftops!) along the southern coasts of the United States and up rivers far into the interior of the country. The birds are light gray with a white underbelly. The black cap makes way for a white stripe and the bill is yellow with a black tip. The males court the females by offering them food.

According to the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges officials, this may be the same group of birds that nested on the top of a nearby supermarket rooftop for more than 20 years who have been forced to find new nesting ground due to repairs.

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