Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Among the most graceful and beautiful of American birds of prey are the swallowtail kites. Some are residents of Florida and scattered swamps across the southeastern coastal plain. Swallowtail kites typically arrive in South Florida by mid-March from their winter home in the American tropics and leave us by mid-September. While they’re here, these bigger than crow-sized black and white birds with a long black forked tail give chase to dragonflies and other large flying insects and dive to capture lizards, frogs, small snakes, and even small fish and bats. They grasp prey in their feet as they sail by, never landing to eat but rather enjoying meals on the wing. When they arrive in North America, swallowtail kites almost immediately begin courtship and nesting. Nests are often near the tops of tall pines at the edges of cypress swamps. Both members of a pair collect the small twigs, Spanish moss, and lichens used to construct the nest, seizing construction material with their feet as the fly by. Just before landing at the nest site, a kite reaches down and transfers the material to its beak. Nests can be built quickly, sometimes in a little over a day.'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.