Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Ecotourism is alive and well in Florida and no group of animals brings ecotourists to Florida than our birds. Over 700 different kinds of birds can be found in North America and about 400 kinds are known from Florida. A few are rarely seen in North America outside of our state. One of those Florida specialties is the swallow-tailed kite, a spectacular black and white hawk with a long forked tail. The swallowtail kite is known for its buoyant graceful flight, and a lack of fear of humans, such that it can be seen sailing over city streets. What most people don’t realize is that this bird was once found throughout the southeast and up major rivers and far as Nebraska, Minnesota, and Ohio. What happened? Swallowtail kites disappeared as the result of a complex web of interacting factors: clearing of bottomland forest for agriculture, draining of wetlands, indiscriminate shooting of an easy target, and reduction of its food supply as a result of pesticides. For now, the swallowtail kite is a must see bird for ecotourists, a visual reminder of Florida’s natural beauty, and a living barometer of the health of our environment.'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.