Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Watch a great egret as it descends slowly on large rounded white wings gently into the water, or at the water's edge, its neck extended forward, its head down, and its long legs dangling beneath it. It's as if the wings were a parachute and the long legs, the cord suspending a precious cargo… in a way, they are. Those legs are very fragile and essential for the great egret to get its next meal. An egret's wings are exceptionally large to allow a gentle landing, protecting its fragile legs, essential tools of its trade as a master fisherman of the marsh. Heavier ducks, in contrast, have much smaller wings, must beat them vigorously, arrive as if late for a meeting, and land with a splash. For them, flight speed is an ally, the water a cushion, and smaller wings are less cumbersome and easily out of the way when they tip up or dive to retrieve food underwater. The advantage a great egret gains by having long legs is obvious: it has access to more prey. Different herons and egrets co-exist, in part, because of differences in feeding strategies and choice of feeding sites. Each is a master of its particular niche. The great egret specializes in fish, frogs, crayfish, and other prey that generally fall in the three to six inch range, just right for its appetite.'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.