Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Least terns can be found in coastal areas and along major rivers through much of North America, although for more than a century their numbers have been declining. Populations in Florida are listed as threatened. In the late-1800s, these tiny, fork-tailed, gray and white birds with a crisp black cap and striking dagger-like black-tipped yellow bill were shot by the thousands and skinned to become ornaments on ladies' hats. Such slaughter led to conservation movements, changes in fashion, and laws that protected birds but not their habitat. Although tern populations rebounded, popularity of recreation on beaches led to disturbances of nesting colonies that resulted in further losses. Damming and channelization of rivers eliminated sand bars where inland least terns nested. Pollutants ranging from pesticides to silt from construction reduced tern food resources. Efforts are now made to protect Florida's least tern nesting areas. Please stay out of tern nesting areas. Birds disturbed from their nests for only a few minutes can result in eggs and chicks that die in the Florida sun. A future for the least tern depends on all of us.'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.