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Hummingbird Migration Update: March 30, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Latest Migration Maps and Data
Rufous and Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are humming their way north, making the most progress along the coasts. Here are 119 new sightings for your migration map. Better get busy! (Or, you can print a copy of the map below and analyze the migration patterns.) Why do you think the hummers move up the Coasts first?

Maps courtesy of Lanny Chambers.
Visit his Hummingbird Website!



Awesome Aerial Aviators
If your hummingbirds haven't reached you yet, they are probably flapping their wings about 75 times per second to make it home again. It has been estimated that the trip across the Gulf of Mexico requires 4 million wing beats! But they can do more than just fly forward.

Did you know that hovering hummingbirds inspired the invention of the helicopter? What do a helicopter and a hummingbird have in common? You're probably quick to say that both can fly backwards, forwards, and hover in one place. Hummingbirds can even fly upside down. These tiny critters seem to know that they are tough targets for larger, slower enemies who might move in to attack. It's all because they're awesome aerial aviators. What's your answer to this question?

Challenge Question #5:
"How can hummingbirds hover in one place? How does hovering help a hummingbird?"

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

Feisty Flying Fanatics With Personality Plus
Teacher Carole Jordan of Laurel, MS (31.68 N, -89.11W) described her first hummingbird sighting of the year (March 21). Does this sound like YOUR hummingbird?

"My first sighting is, as usual, a direct sounding. The little guys come dive bombing my head, with a peculiar chirp that is only theirs, then they fly out over the water and circle around the house at the usual high speed, looking for the feeder. If they don't find it, they come and tell me off! Finally got the feeder hung out today, after a shrill warning, that they might vacate if I didn't pay up!"

Hummingbird watchers agree: These tiny birds are famous for their fearlessness, pugnacity, and curiosity. In areas where hummers are abundant, they often get so tame (or so greedy) that they'll come to a feeder even while someone is carrying it! Bird expert Laura Erickson describes a situation at one hummingbird feeding station in the southwest, where visitors are sometimes given sugar-water feeders to hold out. "Not only do hummingbirds come right to their hands to feed, but one optimistic or confused little hummer actually stuck its tongue into a gentleman's ear!"

Try This!
Did you notice examples of alliteration in this report? Now it's your turn! Make a list of synonyms for fearlessness, pugnacity, and curiosity. Add other words that you think describe a hummingbird's personality. Put the words in alphabetical order. Then use your list of hummingbird adjectives to write tongue twister sentences that describe their personality. Or, use your word list to write a Hummer Haiku. Send us your most challenging tongue twisters or loveliest haiku poems and we'll publish them on our website!

A Tongue That Fits the Bill
Take a look at this hummingbird's bill. Think about the hummer who stuck its tongue into the gentleman's ear (story above). Then think about the food a hummer eats. What kind of tongue do you think would "fit the bill" for a hummingbird? Next week we'll show you a picture, but until then, give us your thoughts for:

Challenge Question #6:
"How would you describe the ideal design for a hummingbird tongue?"

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

Feeders Up?
After humming along the migration trail, your hummers will arrive hungry! Hummingbirds are BIG eaters. No animal on earth has a faster metabolism: roughly 100 times that of an elephant. Hummingbirds burn food so fast that they often eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight in food per day. In order to gather enough nectar, hummingbirds must visit hundreds of flowers daily. Just one day of cold temperatures or bad luck finding flowers can mean death. That's why you'll want to welcome your hummers with some good calories and a hospitable habitat. Easy instructions are just a click away:

Reminder: Predictions Please!
Is Lanny Chambers still waiting for his first hummingbird in St. Louis, MO? Any sign of hummers in the yard of Journey North's Julie Brophy in Victoria, MN? Look at today's map and send us your guesses for:

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? Response to Challenge Question #4
Last time we asked: "Do hummers arrive soon after cranes because of cause-and-effect, or coincidence? And, if hummers don't ride on the backs of cranes, then why do you think the timing of their migrations might be similar?

Bird authority Laura Erickson replies: "Cranes arrive in the north after snow melts, after ice goes out, and when frogs and other food items become available. Hummers arrive in the north as the first flowers start opening up, as sap starts flowing in a wide variety of trees, and as sapsuckers arrive to start drilling for the sap. In other words, both birds are migrating as their food supplies return to the north.

"The myth of hummers riding on the backs of geese, cranes, and other birds arose partly because of their coincidental arrivals, partly because people found it hard to believe that such a tiny species could fly long distances on its own power, and partly because people sometimes observed hummers dive-bombing larger birds. Rather than think such a tiny, sweet, nectar-feeding thing could be so pugnacious, they jumped to the conclusion that the hummers were coming up from or diving down to a ride!"

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 #5 OR #6)
3. In the body of your message, answer the question.

The Next Hummingbird Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 13, 2000.

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