Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. As with many migrant birds, purple martins appear in spring in a somewhat orderly fashion. Adult males arrive first, with younger males and females arriving a week or two behind. The reason for these differences in arrival time is a tug-of-war between the incidence of late cold weather and the ability to secure the best nesting sites. Since purple martins feed on flying insects, a period of cold weather can mean starvation. Usually, this isn't a problem in South Florida, but elsewhere cold weather can mean death. The return of martins to South America for the winter is not so well documented, but lacks much of the urgency of the northward trip. When the last martin nestlings have fledged, young and old gather in loose flocks to feed near rivers, lakes, and swamps where flying insects abound. They build strength and energy reserves for their southward migration and young improve their flying, hunting, and social skills. At night in late summer, martin flocks gather to roost, usually in forested areas but some along city streets such as a roost in downtown Fort Myers. By day, they may travel tens of miles in search of food.'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.