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to the Neotropics
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Lesson #2: Heading South of the Border

Before choosing the species of symbolic bird you'll create, pick up any field guide to North American birds and flip through the pages. Of the hundreds of bird species you'll see, fewer than half remain in the U.S. and Canada during the winter months. Every fall, approximately 350 of the 660 bird species that breed in North America head south of the U.S. border to spend the winter.

Scientists refer to these birds as "neotropical migrants". (The word "neo" means new and "tropical" refers to the region between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. This region includes such places as Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands and parts of South America.) Because this is the destination of so many birds, we'll send your youngster to the neotropics for the winter.

All year long, while your bird is away, we'll follow its story. And we'll send news from scientists who are working to protect the populations of the 350 species of neotropical migratory birds. When the real songbirds return next spring, you'll greet them with a new understanding.

Which species are "neotropical migrants"? Surprisingly, the maps in few field guides show the winter range of each species--as if they simply disappear! ( The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds is one good guide that does give this information.) Here's a list of 160 of the 350 neotropical migrants:

A. Conservationists are concerned about some neotropical migratory species because fewer and fewer return each summer. For background information about this conservation issue read "Silence of the Songbirds" in National Geographic's June 1993 issue (pages 68-90).

B. Using our list of Neotropical Migratory Birds and a field guide as resources, determine which neotropical migrants breed in your state or province.

C. Choose a baby bird to send to the Neotropics. You must choose a neotropical migrant!

Important note to Teachers:
Due to the large number of neotropical migrants, we can only provide the background information you'll need for this project for 3 species: Unless you have your own resource information about neotropical migrants, we suggest you choose one of these species.

REMEMBER: Only 1 bird (and its survival kit) can be sent per class!

1. Why do you think so many bird species go to the Neotropics for the winter?

2. How does bird diversity in your area change through the seasons? Write a descriptive and compare the sounds of summer vs. the dead of winter in your region.

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