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jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Least Terns 2

Length of Segment: 00:01:16

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Although only a little over eight inches long, the least tern is a master traveler, winging its way in small flocks twice a year between its breeding sites in North America and wintering areas off the northeast coast of South America. Least terns arrive in Florida in April and most leave by mid-October. Each year, least terns seek out open beaches or beach-like habitats as nesting colony sites and begin their annual courtship flights nearby. Males test the waters for availability of the tiny fishes they eat and attract a mate by demonstrating their fishing abilities. During April and May, male least terns are often seen carrying tiny fishes in their bill as they pursue a second bird. Although males and females look alike, they seem to know the difference. The male is in pursuit of a mate in what is known as his 'fish flight'. If she's interested, she lands and he joins her. She holds her head high as he dances around her, fish in bill. If she's still interested, she crouches down and he steps onto her back, dangling the fish in front of her. If she seizes the fish, he mates with her, and a pair-bond is formed. If not, the male resumes his search.

'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.

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