Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. A swallowtail kite is a very specialized hawk, one that seems a real aristocrat among birds. Its white head, belly and wing linings contrast boldly with its black back, upper wings, and long gracefully forked tail. It almost seems to be wearing formal attire. In the air, a swallowtail kite is sheer elegance, able to ride motionless on the wind, dive, turn with precision, and then climb rapidly with only the most gentle of wing and tail movements. Those long tails serve as precision rudders as this kite responds to every nuance of a gentle breeze. So at home in the air are these birds that they even eat and drink as they fly. Swallowtail kites are often very social birds, and when they return in spring from the American tropics, they typically travel in small groups, sometimes including as many as 50 individuals. Soon after their arrival in North America, the groups begin to break up as pairs begin courtship. Courting males and females fly in close formation as they go through spectacular aerobatics, each demonstrating to the other the abilities needed to secure food for hungry young.'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.