Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The eight inch long least tern can be found in coastal areas and along major rivers through much of North America, but for more than a century, its numbers have been declining. Those in Florida are considered 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 to become ornaments on ladies' hats. Such slaughter led to conservation movements, changes in fashion, and laws that protected birds but not their habitat. Tern populations rebounded a bit, but growing human populations and popularity of recreation on beaches led to disturbances of nesting colonies that resulted in further loses. Damming and channelization of rivers eliminated sand bars where inland least terns nested. Pollutants ranging from pesticides to silt from construction reduced and contaminated 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 nests for only a few minutes can result in eggs and chicks that die in the Florida sun.'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.