Nature

Wild Miami

Synopsis

The stories of American cities are inextricably linked with the tales of immigrants, making their lives there. And Miami is no exception – in the last century, it has become a melting pot of wildlife from around the globe.

South Florida’s buzzing metropolis has become a new home for Indian peafowls. We follow some chicks that just hatched into an urban world. They immediately run across some of Miami’s other animal immigrants. The most obvious are the anoles: small lizards with flashy colors on their throats, which they use to challenge rivals and attract mates.

The peafowl chicks were born at the start of the heavy summer rains. The first full moons after the summer storms begin trigger the mass migration of giant blue land crabs from their terrestrial burrows to the sea. Thousands of these crabs, whose claws can reach a foot across, march across busy roads, through manicured backyards, and into dense mangroves to reach the warm, shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, where males and females meet to spawn in the high tide.

The peafowl mother also leads her brood to water: to puddles after rainstorms, backyard swimming pools, and the intricate network of canals that cut through the city. These canals are full of animal immigrants, too: manatees, alligators, and crocodiles use the extensive canal system to move around the city. Tropical aquarium fish, released into the city’s waterways by owners weary of caring for them, thrive here. Colorful cichlids and Gambusia establish breeding territories in the shallows, with males displaying and fighting for the privilege of siring the next generation.

A troop of vervet monkeys – hailing originally from East Africa – has persisted for decades in the dense mangroves near Fort Lauderdale Airport, venturing out into the surrounding neighborhoods for human handouts.

In many ways, parrots are the peafowl’s polar opposite – where peafowl live hard and die young, parrots can live for many decades; and where peacocks compete to mate with as many peahens as they can, some parrots pair with the same mate for life. But both groups of birds have found a home in Miami, thanks to humans’ unquenchable desire to surround themselves with beautiful things.

And as dusk becomes dark in sunny Miami, bats emerge from roosts in attics to hunt for prey, and  terrestrial carnivores like the raccoon, gray fox, and coyote prowl for whatever prey they can find.

However their fortunes change, the animal immigrants of Miami have beaten the odds to gain a foothold on a new continent. But in a city that’s so intimately linked with the rest of the world, it won’t be long before a new generation of animal immigrants arrives, to create a new life for themselves… in Wild Miami.