Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Late summer roosts of purple martins in the southeastern U.S. are often spectacular, numbering in tens of thousands of birds with one roost estimated to have included over half a million martins. The roosts occur as young and adult martins leave nesting colonies and move to forested wetlands and other areas with high concentrations of flying insects. Roosts may be staging areas for migration but are also areas for social exchange and safety in this highly social bird. With summer heat and rains, insect populations are at seasonal highs and lucky is the community that has a martin roost. Most martin roosts are in remote areas, but in an urban area, a roost such as one in downtown Fort Myers near the Henry Street Station can offer viewers a spectacular show. Martins begin arriving about an hour before sunset, perching on buildings and wires before settling in for the night in trees. They leave before dawn to feed on insects throughout the region. The Fort Myers roost includes between 10,000 and 40,000 martins, varying in numbers as new groups arrive and others leave. Through August and September, numbers of birds in roosts decline as they head for their winter home in South America.'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.