Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The Carolina wren is a master songster with a loud and varied repertoire of whistles, trills, and buzzes. As with other birds, it uses song to defend its territory, attract a mate and to coordinate activities between the pair. The Carolina wren is also a mimic, a lesson I learned the hard way. I once recruited a group of students to help me search several square miles of dense forests for nest trees of the endangered red-concaded woodpecker. The plan was that we would walk through the forest in a line, spaced about 150 feet apart. The undergrowth was so dense that we couldn't see one another, so I provided each student with a referee's whistle and we developed a code we would use: one blast on the whistle meant “Here I am, where are you?”, two blasts meant “Wait, I’m stopping to check something”, three meant “I found something, come here”. It was a great plan, but I hadn't considered the Carolina wrens. What I hadn't realized was that Carolina wrens can mimic a referee's whistle, and they did. Within an hour, my students were hopelessly scattered, following the signals of several Carolina wrens. I've often wondered if they were as confused as we were.'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.