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Hummingbird Migration Update: March 16, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Latest Migration Maps and Data

Maps courtesy of Lanny Chambers.
Visit his Hummingbirds Website!



Predictions Please!

Hummingbird Observation Posts

Victoria, TX
29 N

St. Louis, MO
38 N

Victoria, MN
45 N

When do you think the hummers will reach these Northern Observation Posts? Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were about to arrive in Texas on Feb. 24 when Mrs. Moore's 5th grade class gathered around their hummingbird feeder. It was 80 degrees and sunny! But it's much colder as you go north. In St. Louis, MO, Lanny Chambers is inside waiting for his first hummingbird. Meanwhile in Minnesota, Journey North's Julie Brophy ventured outside to check out hummer habitat. No sign of them yet!

Challenge Question #3
"When do you predict the first hummingbird will arrive at the observation posts in St. Louis, MO (38 N) and Victoria, MN (45 N)?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Just a Coincidence?
Back on February 23, Harlen Aschen wrote from Victoria, Texas: "We have no hummingbirds that we would call migratory right now ... the ones we see have overwintered. But sandhill cranes were reported moving north yesterday so it can't be long."

Why did Harlen say it can't be long until the hummers arrive? A popular old wives' tale says that hummingbirds ride on the backs of cranes, since people always saw them arrive after cranes. How would YOU explain the timing? That's this week's:

Challenge Question #4
"If hummingbirds don't ride on the backs of cranes, then why do you think the timing of their migrations might be similar?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Cash, Contests, Birds and Cats
Do you love prizes and contests? Do you care about protecting cats and birds? Would you like to win $250 for both yourself and your school or nature center, on top of doing a lot of good for birds and pets? If you're between 6 and 12 years old, this contest is for you! Enter the NATIONAL KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS DAY 2000 POSTER COMPETITION to help publicize National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day on May 13, 2000. Entries are due May 1, and winners will be announced by May 12 on American Bird Conservancy's Website. Your artwork should show a happy, safe, indoor cat. Get more details at:

Hummer Howdy!

On March 13, Debra King of Meridian, MS (32.2636N,-88.4935W) spotted her first hummingbird. Each year she fills more than 8 feeders a day for hungry hummingbirds! Debra welcomes the birds with more than food. Here's a picture of the new "Welcome Home" sign she made for the year 2000! That's a pretty fine howdy! To help hummers coming YOUR way, you can:

Get Ready! Unpave the Way for Hummingbirds
Besides tracking their migration, we hope you'll help hummingbirds along the way by creating habitat for them. You can access many helpful people and resources through Journey North's website to help you make life better for the wildlife that shares your home. Join thousands of other students doing habitat projects. When your project is complete, report back to Journey North and we'll add your site to our "Unpave the Way for Wildlife" map, showing where hummers and other critters will find good habitat.

Field Work While You Wait
If you were a hummingbird, what could you find to eat today? As you wait for the hummingbird migration to reach your hometown, watch how their habitat changes BEFORE they arrive:
  • Keep your eyes open for the first flowers to bloom in your area. Are any flowers available now? In your field notebook, record the dates each type of flower becomes available. (Remember to include flowering trees, even apple or cherry blossoms.)

  • See if you can predict when hummers will arrive in your area, based on the readiness of their habitat.

Then keep a lookout to the south and watch for them to arrive!

Try This! Ruby-throat or Rufous?
Copyright 1999, Larry and Terrie Gates

With your help, Journey North is tracking both Rufous hummingbirds and Ruby-throated hummingbirds. Which hummer are YOU watching for? Where were the first Rufous hummingbird sightings this spring? What does this tell you about one difference between Rufous hummingbirds and Ruby-throated hummingbirds?

This picture will help you see how a Rufous differs from a Ruby-throat. But how else are these hummers different? How big are the birds? What do they eat? Where is the wintering grounds, and what's the climate like? Where is the breeding grounds? What routes do they travel? How far north do they go? Create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast your findings.
Why Come Back?
Discussion of Challenge Question #1
Last time we asked, "If things are so good "down south," why don't hummers stay there all year?"

Anne McCoy in Mechanicsburg, Ohio answered: "I think the reason hummingbirds don't stay down south for all year is because maybe it gets a little over populated." (

Anne was right to think about crowding and space. Imagine this: In spring, an enormous breeding range opens up after being freezing cold and covered with snow all winter. This offers hummers and other birds PLENTY of space and food for themselves and their young, all through the summer. They come back because the northern breeding grounds offer great places to raise their young until the season changes, the weather turns cold, and their food sources diminish. Then the tropics will be a welcome refuge again.

How Heavy is That?
Discussion of Challenge Question #2

We asked, "Besides a ruby-throated hummingbird, what other things weigh 1/10th of an ounce, or 2.8 grams?"

Anne McCoy sent the only answer we got. Anne replied: "Another thing that weighs 1/10 of an ounce or 2.8 grams, is a marshmallow. I know that for a fact. My brother and I did an experiment and that was the results."

Thanks, Anne! Now the rest of you can add to the list of other things that weigh 2.8 grams. (Did you know that hummingbirds are so light that you could put 10 of them in an envelope and mail the letter with a single stamp?)
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Please answer ONLY ONE question in EACH e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #3 (or #4).
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The Next Hummingbird Migration Update Will be Posted on March 23, 2000

Copyright 2000 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

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