Oriole Oriole
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Oriole Migration Update: March 18, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Weather or Not?

Oriole feeders help both wintering and migrating orioles
For more information.

Orioles haven't started migrating yet, but a few overwintered here and there. Several Baltimores and at least one Bullock's Oriole wintered in various places in Louisiana and Florida. Bullock's Orioles wintered in both Half Moon Bay and Banner, California. One male Bullock's Oriole is spending its second year in a row at a feeder in Connecticut, and two Baltimore Orioles also wintered in Connecticut!

Oriole migration is expected to start in April Although orioles leave the tropics because their internal rhythms, the length of daylight, and the position of the sun in the tropical sky all tell them it's time to go, most of their actual flights will depend on weather conditions. While you're waiting for their migration to begin, learn more about the weather patterns that will affect them at the Journey North Weather Primer.

Oriole Migration Mysteries
For thousands of years, the first migrants of spring seemed to humans to have just appeared out of nowhere! Many people once believed that swallows burrowed in mud for the winter, or flew to the moon! When people started traveling and communicating over long distances, they suddenly realized that birds traveled. In the late 1700s, John James Audubon tied a string around a phoebe's leg to see if that exact bird would return the next year. Sure enough, it did, and then other ornithologists started putting rings on bird legs to study them. Now scientists banding birds use special numbered rings, and all banding research is coordinated through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Map courtesy of Alan Davenport
UFWS Office of Migratory Bird Management

This map was made from bird-banding data. It shows data from orioles that were banded during the breeding season (May - July) and recovered (found) during the wintering months (November - February). The blue lines connecting the points do not show the migratory route. Rather, the lines connect data points for each individual bird. By looking at this map, you can see where orioles from your state or province might spend the winter. These data were not easy to collect! Of the 92,010 orioles banded, only 959 have been recovered. Even fewer banding recoveries are on this map, since we are only looking at those records described above.

Challenge Question # 2
"What is the rate of recovery for banded orioles? That is, how many orioles must be banded for one oriole band to be found again?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question, see below.)

Unpave the Way for Orioles!
When orioles migrate, they will face hunger and danger as they move through unfamiliar territory. We can help them by providing food to keep their energy up as they pass through, and by growing the kinds of plants that will provide homes for them to stay and nest. Just cut an orange in half, and set the halves on a deck railing or flat feeder, or tie them on a tree branch. Orioles also eat lots of nectar, and are happy to take sugar water as a substitute!

What to Report to Journey North

Report Migrating Orioles, Leaf-Out and Unpave the Way Projects to Journey North!

1. Report that you've helped to "Unpave-the-Way" for orioles, as soon as you place your nectar feeder outside. We'll include your site on our habitat map! See Unpave-the-Way for Wildlife.
2. Report the FIRST Oriole you see this spring.
3. Report "leaf-out" of your deciduous trees.
Here's why: For many songbird species, the timing of spring migration may be related to leaf-out. This is because when leaves emerge, so do lots of insects. Songbirds may fuel their migration by following the leaf-out, and eating the millions of insects available at that time. With your help, we'd like to test whether these spring events are inter-related.

Discussion of Challenge Question # 1
We asked you to "list oriole behaviors that differ between the tropics and their breeding grounds, and see if you can give some reasons why they would change how they act between the two places." Here are a few possibilities

  • Orioles do most of their singing on their breeding grounds, and are quieter on their wintering grounds. This is because they use song to attract a mate and defend a breeding territory--two things they don't think about during winter, even in the warm tropics.
  • Orioles build nests on their breeding grounds. They don't do this anywhere else.
  • Orioles eat many more insects on their breeding grounds, and much more fruit and nectar in the tropics. They need lots of protein to make eggs and feed growing babies.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-oriole@learner.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 2
3. In the body of your message, answer the question

The next Oriole Migration Update will be posted on April 1, 1999.

Copyright 1999 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

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