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With the Wild Things
Weekdays @ 7:20 AM

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With the Wild Things is hosted by wildlife biologist Dr. Jerry Jackson and produced by the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Funded by the Environmental Education Grant Program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, With the Wild Things is a one-minute look at a particular environmental theme.

Dr. Jackson takes you through your backyard, and Southwest Florida’s beaches, swamps and preserves to learn about “the wild things”.

Latest Episodes
  • Eyes are essential in the lives of most animals for living their everyday lives. But their roles extend far beyond the possessor of those eyes and beyond their obvious use for seeing. In this week’s “Wild Things” we’ll explore some animal adaptations that relate to visual interactions between individuals and species, ways in which eyes are sometimes modified to enhance vision in bright light, and ways in which development of false eyes can influence potential predators and even members of the opposite sex.
  • Rosary Pea is a vine native to Asia, Africa, and parts of Australia. It is now found around the world in the tropics and subtropics and has been in Florida at least since the early 1930s. Rosary Pea has long been used for its bright red-and-black seeds that are very hard, nearly spherical, and mostly a shiny red with a shiny black base where they were attached to the seedpod. Because of their size, shape, colors, and durability, these seeds have been used for centuries as prayer beads – not merely in Christian religions, but also in Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist religions where devout followers repeat prayers or mantras a specified number of times. Strings of the seeds are used by a person reciting the prayers to keep track of how many times they have repeated the prayer. The word “rosary” comes from Old English and means “rose garden” – and perhaps refers to a sense of peace and beauty one might get from reciting the prayers.
  • The Gumbo Limbo is a most unusual tree because of its red, shiny, peeling bark – which earned it the favored nickname of “tourist tree”. It is also a south Florida native, although south Florida is at the northern limits of its native distribution. Most Gumbo Limbo trees (known to science as Bursera simaruba) reach little more than 35 feet in height, but some are known to reach as much as 80 feet. This tree is found where hurricanes are found – and it has adapted well to survive hurricane winds. It develops a solid supportive root system, has somewhat open, spreading, very flexible limbs, and quickly regrows leaves after they have been ripped off by storms. A great diversity of wildlife feeds on Gumbo Limbo fruit throughout its range in Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the northern coast of Central America.
  • Perhaps the fastest lizard in Florida, the Six-lined Racerunner lives up to its name and is even adorned with racing stripes. This up to 8.5 inch, ground-dwelling lizard of sandy habitats has a tail much longer than its body and it uses it for balance and steering as it runs, chasing small insects and spiders for its next meal.
  • Green Herons can be found in south Florida year-round. Many are resident; in winter we also have migrants from farther north. The name “Green Heron” is not a misnomer. It truly shows iridescent green on top of its head, back, and wings – in the right light. But that’s pretty rare. Adults have bright orange legs and feet during nesting, duller yellow-orange at other times. Older chicks and fledglings have yellow-green legs and feet. Chicks have a flesh to yellow-colored bill with a black tip. As chicks grow older the bill becomes more black.
  • Blue crabs are familiar to most beach goers because of the telltale blue on their legs – and to most seafood aficionados because of their luscious taste and prominence on seafood menus. While they are found over a wide span of warm near-shore seawaters, they are particularly abundant in Florida. On this week’s “Wild Things” I’ll focus on their seasonal movements, their longevity, their mating behavior, their swimming abilities, and the rapidity with which they can hide from a predator by backing into soft sand or mud to escape a potential predator.
  • White Ibises are common birds in Florida – sometimes locally known as “Chokoloskee Chicken” – because a century ago they were commonly eaten. They stand about two feet tall, have a long thin, pink bill that is red with a black tip during nesting, and they often feed in groups. While they are wetland birds, they also frequent yards, performing a service for us by eating sod webworms.
  • The Brown-headed Nuthatch is a tiny bird with a very short tail and a very squeaky voice. Indeed, its voice sounds like that of a “rubber ducky”. The Brown-headed Nuthatch is one of three nuthatch species found in Florida, but the only one regularly found in south Florida. The Brown-headed Nuthatch is a bird of pines and is found in pinelands of Florida and the Southeast. It is a bird that feeds on insects and spiders that it finds in bark crevices and among the needles of pines. It eats pine seeds retrieved from open cones. Nuthatches fill a niche somewhat similar to that of a woodpecker – except that they not only move up a tree surface, but also down – head-first – thus they readily finds insects and spiders from above as well as from below or from the side – approaches that woodpeckers usually take. Like woodpeckers, nuthatches are cavity nesters. They readily excavate their own nest in well-rotted wood, use a natural cavity, or make use of an abandoned woodpecker cavity. Brown-headed Nuthatches are social birds and constantly chatter – squeaking – as they hunt for food.
  • Baby birds always attract our attention – and they are great for introducing kids to nature. Altricial chicks – those that hatch nearly naked and certainly helpless – often with eyes that are not yet opened – seem so helpless. And that is so important. These chicks bring out a nurturing instinct in most of us. But kids and adults need to know that just touching a chick or an egg in a nest can result in death for the tiny bird. Wonderful to observe – and important to observe – from a distance – and for a very short time. Each meal is very important for growing chicks.
  • Dragonflies are readily recognized because of their permanently outstretched wings that seem to twitter through the air rather than fly with a deep flapping flight. They are also often recognized because of their size and association with water. The diversity of dragonflies and damselflies in both color and size may rival the diversity of birds. Males, females, and juveniles also often differ greatly in color, such as in the Eastern Pond Hawk providing dragonfly-watchers with multiple challenges. We even have some invasive exotic dragonflies in our midst – such as the stunning Scarlet Skimmer in Florida.