Nesting Behavior

The nesting season in Broward County begins in early March each year with Leatherback sea turtles, then Loggerheads in April and then Greens in May and June. Leatherbacks are less predictable and can nest as early as February. Nesting continues through September, with the peak season for Loggerheads typically being the end of June and the beginning of July. With very rare exceptions, these eggs are deposited at night.

If undisturbed, the female leaves the water and crawls up the beach to a point well above the high tide line. There, using her rear flippers, she digs an egg chamber cavity. After resting briefly, she then fills the hole with about 100 (sometimes more) ping-pong ball sized eggs, gently covers the eggs with sand and then spreads sand over a wide area with her front flippers to obscure the exact location of the chamber. She then leaves the nest site and reenters the water.

An individual Loggerhead will nest 2-3 times per year, Green female sea turtles will nest 3-4 times per year, both typically at 2-3 week intervals. Leatherbacks will nest 5-7 times per year at 10-day intervals (approximately). She will not nest every year however, but rather every other year or third year. This will depend on a number of factors including environment, food availability, genes, and parasites, and other variables.

Since adult sea turtles do not nurture their hatchlings, the female never sees the nest site again. A single female may nest several times during a season and then not nest again for one or two years. Approximately 50% of the time, the female exits the water without digging a nest. These are called "false crawls" and usually occur because the turtle was disturbed or it could not find a "good" nest site. In Florida, the crawl tracks left on the beach are always made by female sea turtles and they resemble marks left by a tractor tire.

An individual turtle will nest within 5 miles to 35 miles of the region, on average, of where they hatched from and/or nested in the past, based on tagging studies. There is also evidence that the hatchlings can detect variations in the earth's magnetic field and that may be one way they navigate back.