Oriole Oriole
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Oriole Migration Update: April 6, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Weather Brings the Birds! Dr. Aborn's Weather Report
Good news! Weather-Wise expert David Aborn says, "Migration is really starting to pick up, so get out there with your binoculars!"

Down in Tennessee, David looks forward to good birding tomorrow as more of the birds that were grounded on the Gulf coast arrive in his area. He writes today that "From Texas to Florida, people were reporting warblers, vireos, and even the first orioles! The Texas coast reported 14 species of warblers on April 2!"

What's the birding outlook for this week and next week? David tells us, "Another cold front is moving across the country. While it is not as strong as the last one, the north winds behind it spell bad news for migrants." Find out why, and learn whether you live in a state that can expect more good birding in the next few days by reading David's full report:

Until next time, David asks you to think about this:

Challenge Question #5:
"How high do you think a bird flies when it migrates?"

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

All Around the Mulberry Bush
rom Texas, Journey North observer Harlen Aschen sent us this great "rule" for timing the arrival of orioles:

"Start looking March 15th but don't expect much until the tax has been sent in (April 15th). We checked the mulberry trees this afternoon, April 5th. Only about a fourth of the fruit is showing signs of wanting to ripen. When it is ripe there will be orioles and tanagers."

What's your answer to:

Challenge Question #6:
"Why do Texans watch springtime changes in mulberry bushes to help them predict when orioles will arrive?"

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

Watch Out for Oriole Look-a-Likes!
One Journey North observer sent this sighting from Minnesota in March: "Male oriole was sighted at a feeder with sunflower seeds on Saturday."

Other bird species can easily be confused with orioles! Think about the observer's comment and location, then see if you can answer this question:

Challenge Question #7:
"What kind of bird do you think the observer saw? How do you know it was not an oriole?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions below.)

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Photo courtesy Provincial Museum of Alberta

You've probably heard that a picture can be worth a thousand words. Look at this oriole photo and see how much you can observe about it:
A. Is this a male or a female?
B. How old do you think it is? Why
C. How much do you think it weighs?
D. Do you think orioles have color vision? Support your guess.
E. What are some reasons why this oriole might be in a person's hand?

Finally, take a look at the oriole's beak. Then send us your answer to:

Challenge Question #8:
"How does an oriole use its beak? Name as many ways as you can. How does the beak shape help with the uses you named?"

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

Rainforest Refuge
Dr. Frank Joyce contacted us from Costa Rica to report orioles there in smallish numbers. Does that mean they're on their way to the Northern Hemisphere from their rainforest refuge? Dr. Joyce lives in Monteverde, where he teaches college students. He is president of the Monteverde Conservation League, which owns and manages the Children's Eternal Rainforest.

This magnificent wildlife Reserve is in the cloud-shrouded highlands of central Costa Rica. With enormous support from the International Children's Rainforest Network Worldwide, the protected forest at Monteverde grew very rapidly in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The International Children's Rainforest Network will provide on-going support to the Reserve, even though the major land aquisition phase is over.

Now is the time to make a difference! How can YOU help? Read "Trouble is Brewing for Birds" below, and then check out this website for other ideas:

Trouble is Brewing for Birds
What's the connection between coffee and the birds that breed in our backyards?

Coffee comes from the roasted and ground-up beans of coffee plants. For almost two centuries, coffee plants were grown in the shade of native forest trees. When coffee is grown on a traditional shade plantation, coffee trees are planted beneath a forest canopy. These small farms also cultivate diverse crops under the forest canopy. Some examples are fruit, avocados, cacao for chocolate, and trees for firewood. This provides a diversified living for small family farmers, who grow most of the shade coffee. But shade-grown coffee farms also provide habitat for over 150 species of North American Songbirds and many other species of native birds, animals, and plants. Chemicals aren't necessary because this diverse natural environment provides the nutrients and natural pest controls for coffee trees.

Twenty years ago, nearly all commercial coffee was grown under a canopy of shade trees. But debt-strapped nations seeking to boost exports have taken steps to modernize coffee growing. Coffee farmers have converted from shade to "sun" grown coffee because the yield is higher and they have more coffee to sell at today's higher prices. The problem is that no shade means no birds. Sun coffee requires cutting down trees to grow coffee in the open, and lots of chemicals and fertilizers become necessary.

Once people hear about shade coffee, many want to buy it. Do coffee drinkers in your family know about shade coffee? Is shade coffee available in your community? By purchasing coffee that is grown in the shade, consumers help keep shade coffee economically viable while preserving increasingly scarce habitat for migratory neotropical birds. If you would like to conduct a shade coffee campaign in your town, The Seattle Audubon Society has a web page with helpful tips:

Read more about shade coffee at:

Try This! Vacation? Migration?
Birds travel to and from the neotropics with built-in survival kits. How do YOU travel? Chances are good that you prepare well! How is a vacation different from a migration? Human travel and bird migration offer fascinating similarities and differences. Have fun with Journey North's activity in which you explore the parallels between things humans need for travel and the counterparts needed by birds to survive their journeys:

Are You Ready for Your Orioles?
Alice Austin of Discovery, CA (37.837 -121.64) was first to report that her feeder is up! We hope you'll follow her example, and remember to report YOUR feeder up, too. This checklist will help you greet your returning orioles. . .and keep them coming back!

Feed the Hungry Travelers
When orioles migrate, they will face hunger and danger as they move through unfamiliar territory. We can help them by offering food to keep up their energy as they pass through, and by growing the kinds of plants that will provide homes for them to stay and nest. It's as easy as cutting an orange in half, and setting the halves on a deck railing or flat feeder. Or, you can tie the halves on a tree branch. Orioles also eat lots of nectar, and are happy to take sugar water as a substitute!

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day
If you live near Washington, DC, visit the National Zoo on May 6 and 7 to help celebrate the return of millions of birds that spend the winter in Latin America and the Caribbean! Learn more about these feathered international travelers and what you can do to help conserve them. And don't forget to check out festivities in your area!

Make a Poster and Keep Kitty Indoors
Cash prizes are waiting, and entries are due May 1 for the NATIONAL KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS DAY 2000 POSTER COMPETITION. National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day is May 13, and winners will be announced by May 12 on American Bird Conservancy's Web site . There's still time to create your artwork showing a happy, safe, indoor cat. Get more details at:

Here's another helpful site when you're deciding what to say on your poster:

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: jn-challenge-oriole@learner.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #5 (or #6 or #7 or #8).
3. In the body of your message, give your answer to the question above.

The Next Oriole Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 20, 2000

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