Migration Update: March 25, 2004
On the Move
ago (March 18) brought more than 50 Rufous reports in a busy week for
the birds. This week the reports began to come in from the foothills
of the Cascades, and birds continued to move northward as well. What
are they up to?
As soon as hummingbirds arrive, males establish their territories and
females start nesting. If you watch your male hummingbirds closely,
you may catch one in a really cool display flight. Mike Patterson did.
He said, “Neal Maine and I did some close observations of a male
and female courting at the Neawanna Banding Station.” See their
observations and drawings of the flight patterns they saw. (Watch for
more about this subject later in today’s report.)
news, Mike reports Salmonberries in bloom everywhere, though the peak
won't be for another couple of weeks. Twinberry is just beginning to
show unopened flower heads and will probably begin to bloom next week.
If you live in the West and see hummers, make sure you report
them—and any flowers blooming--to Mike.
Advancing: a Journaling Question for You
at all the new sightings on this week’s map! Cold air up north
dipped farther south last week than anticipated, bringing storms and
strong northerly winds as the front swept across the nation. As a result,
the first fallout of the season brought birdwatchers some welcome sights.
To what latitude have the Rubythroats advanced on today’s map?
Try This! Journaling Question
Look at today’s ruby-throated hummingbird map and decide which
of the birds probably came across the Gulf of Mexico? Which probably
flew overland? Why do you think so?
the Data: Challenge Question #5
The maps in this report are simply “snapshots in time,”
captured from our MapServer. The MapServer is updated every few minutes
with sightings as they’re reported. That means you can keep up
to date with the migration every day! How can you better interpret the
data? Print and post this page with tips to help you:
weather maps and the MapServer reports to see if you can answer:
“How far north (give a latitude) do you predict (1) Rufous and
(2) Rubythroat hummingbirds will have traveled by our April 1 update?
What states/provinces do you think hummingbirds will have reached
by April 1?”
(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions
Rufous Hummingbirds really fly in an oval?
Mating Game: Hummingbird Display Puzzler
Hummingbirds have unique wing bones and muscles, allowing them to fly
straight up, straight down, backwards, and forwards. And their wings
flap so very fast (up to 200 beats per second in a display!) that they
make a buzzing sound. A territorial hummingbird flies in a pattern--usually
a U or an oval--which it repeats over and over, wings buzzing to make
the display even more noticeable.
If you checked Mike’s Courtship
Behaviors at Neawanna Banding Station, you saw drawings of the flight
patterns observed. The flight patterns of Rufous Hummingbirds raise
many questions and few answers. One big question is, “Do Rufous
Hummingbirds fly in an oval?” How do scientists find the answer
to questions like this? What are the hypotheses? It’s not as easy
as it may sound. Try an experiment of drawing from someone else’s
description as you ponder this:
the excitement of science: working together, people are still finding
the answers to many questions, and every time we get one answer, we
think of more questions! We DO know the whole point of courtship is
clear: to mate and have young. Read more below...
a Good Terrritory? Challenge Question #6
Establishing territory is very serious business. Male hummingbirds usually
arrive on the breeding grounds way ahead of the females ands start to
establish their territories. Do hummer keep the same mate season after
season? No. They don’t even stay together to raise the babies.
The female does ALL the work herself, and a male hummer will mate with
any females he can attract to this territory.
“What are at least two things that a male hummingbird looks
for when he establishes a territory?”
respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)
how wide is this hummingbird nest?
Photo Dorothy Edgington
is A Big Job: Link to Lesson With Reading & Writing Connection
The hummingbirds that are already home are busy. You may not realize
it, but nesting involves a LOT of critical steps. Do males share the
responsibilities for nesting and raising babies? What’s the most
important job that a male hummingbird does? How many times in one summer
does a hummingbird lay eggs and raise babies? How many days does a mother
hummingbird sit on the eggs before they hatch? How long before the babies
leave the nest? How do the babies compare to their mother in weight
when they leave the nest? You’ll find out here:
Before you begin, introduce the phrase Nesting Phenology. Invite
students to scan the subheadings in the reading selection: Territorial
Defense, Nest Building, Egg Laying, Incubating Eggs, Brooding and Feeding
Nestlings, and Taking Care of Fledglings. Ask students: Based on
the headings, what do you think "Nesting Phenology" means?
What will the focus of this reading selection be? What kinds of facts
do you think will be revealed in this article? (Scanning the Text
Besides this tip, teachers will find many more strategies to help students
read, revisit, and reflect on this selection in the link to our Reading
and Writing Connections, found at the top of Ruby-throated
Hummingbird Nesting Phenology.
courtesy of Harlan
and Altus Aschen.
Ms. Kelley’s class in Inglenook Elementary in Birmingham Alabama
reported, “We put our feeder up yesterday (March 22) and saw our
first male ruby-throated today (March 23).” How can you get ready
to welcome your hummers? First, keep an eye on our MapServer to see
when they’re getting close. Second, learn tips for providing for
your hummers--and see how to put yourself on our map:
River of Birds: Look and Listen
Each spring, roughly a billion birds migrate northward across the Gulf
of Mexico, en route to breeding habitats from their wintering quarters
in the tropics. Imagine being a bird, flying over hundreds of miles
of water, without food or any place to rest. And imagine being there
to watch as thousands and thousands of migrating birds fly over your
head! From an offshore platform about 80 feet above the Gulf of Mexico,
naturalist John Arvin didn’t have to imagine. He watched the passage
of thousands upon thousands of songbirds one spring night. Read excerpts
from his writings at dawn, after a whole night of watching the river
of birds flooding toward shore:
or millions of other birds migrate over the Gulf on a single dark night,
how do they keep from bumping into each other? You’ll find the
answer in John’s story, and something to try in your own backyard.
the Gulf: Discussion of CQ #4
As you thought about where ruby-throats are coming from, we said, “The
speed of a hummingbird in normal flight is about 25 mph. About how long
will it take a hummingbird to fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico,
a distance of 845 km (525 mi)?
The answer is 525 miles divided by 25 mph = 21 hours. Congratulations
to all these students for sending the answer!
Srirom, Chris D, Stephanie V from Iselin Middle School
and Kaitlin from from South O'Brien Middle School
at Challenger Middle School, Ms. Pfaff’s 7th grade class.
from Mrs. Pfaff’s science class took it further and figured
out: "If you multiply the number of hours it will take to cross
the Gulf of Mexico by the number of minutes in an hour (60), you will
get 1,260 minutes. If you multiply the number of minutes by the number
of seconds there are in a minute (60), the answer you will get is
75,600 seconds to cross the Gulf of Mexico." WOW! Great going,
Chambers with students.
Your Question? Ask the Expert Now Open!
Is there something about Rufous or Ruby-throated hummingbirds you'd
love to know? Lanny Chambers is our expert, and he's ready and willing
to answer your questions. You haven until CDT on April 2nd to send them
to us. Meet Lanny and see how to prepare your questions here:
to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions:
Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.
an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write:
Challenge Question #5 (OR #6).
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions
The Next Hummingbird Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 1*
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