Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Although swallowtail kites return to Florida each spring from their winter home in the tropics, we know little about their travels. The earliest birds arrive in southwest Florida, and it may be a week or two before they reach the southeast coast. Two to three weeks later, they reach North Florida. Once here, they sail low over wetlands and other open areas in search of food. On migration, they’re seldom seen; apparently, they fly high, direct, and in small groups. Some have been seen in South America crossing the Andes at altitudes of more than 15,000 feet. What we know about their travels suggests that South Florida swallowtail kites migrate through the Caribbean from South America, whereas North Florida birds make their way overland coming around the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps from a different wintering area. In late summer, swallowtail kites gather in large roosts. One in the Everglades has included more than 2,000 birds, perhaps three-fourths of the North American nesting population. They seem to leave this area in small groups, but the details of their journey remain a mystery. We’ve learned a lot about bird migration, but the swallowtail kite shows us that there is much we need to know.'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.