South Pasadena Rooftop Hosts Oystercatcher Family

One of a pair of American oystercatchers that has nested on a roof in South Pasadena for the past six or seven years. Photo by Natalie Leggette, horticulture supervisor for the city of South Pasadena.

One of a pair of American oystercatchers that has nested on a roof in South Pasadena for the past six or seven years. Photo by Natalie Leggette, horticulture supervisor for the city of South Pasadena.

A pair of American oystercatchers has once again succeeded in raising a baby on the roof of an apartment building in South Pasadena, while a nearby strip of beach cordoned off for nesting birds remains empty.

“It’s either the same pair, or babies they fledged that came back to where they were born,” said Natalie Leggette, horticulture supervisor for the city of South Pasadena and bird monitor for the St. Petersburg Audubon Society.

For the past six or seven years the pair has produced three eggs on the rooftop on Shore Drive South and actually succeeded in raising one baby, Leggette said. With much of their beach habitat invaded by humans, shorebirds have taken to nesting on gravel-topped roofs, she said.

Now even the roof-top nesting habitat is being taken away: new roofs are being made with a flat surface instead of with pea gravel and are unsuited for nesting, Leggette said.

This year’s survivor “is almost as large as the parents, so he’s probably getting ready to fledge,” she said.

Two American oystercatcher chicks take refuge by an air conditioner unit on a roof in South Pasadena while a parent, far lower left, keeps watch. Only one of the chicks survived to fledgling age. Photo by Natalie Leggette, horticulture supervisor for the city of South Pasadena.

Two American oystercatcher chicks take refuge by an air conditioner unit on a roof in South Pasadena while a parent, far lower left, keeps watch. Only one of the chicks survived to fledgling age. Photo by Natalie Leggette, horticulture supervisor for the city of South Pasadena.

Leggette was the driving force behind the establishment of the Barbara Gilbert Habitat Park on Shore Drive South and Pasadena Avenue, a small pocket of land and beach set aside in 1998 primarily for least terns and oystercatchers to nest.

The park features native maritime forest vegetation and a strip of beach fenced off to keep out humans, raccoons and cats. It has tidy dunes, bird decoys set out to attract potential parents, and little “huts” for any babies to hide.

However, only once, about 10 years ago, have birds nested there.

“We had 50 nests that year,” Leggett said. A yellow crowned night heron flew in, destroyed all the eggs and killed the hatchlings. “We were so excited to get the birds there, and the next thing you know, poof, they’re gone,” she said.

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