Migration Update: April 8, 2004
Rufous Hummingbirds Reach Alaska
What a stretch north for Rufous hummingbirds
on this week’s map! Since our last full report, they arrived in
Alaska and the first east side birds arrived in Sisters, OR and White
Lake, BC (moving inland and east of the Cascades). Reports to Mike Patterson
were full of excitement and curiosity:
- “We just had our first reports
of Rufous Hummingbirds in Ketchikan, Alaska, today, 30 March. Two
different males at two different feeders. Since 1990, our earliest
arrival dates at Ketchikan have been: 21 Mar 2003, 23 Mar 1995, 28
Mar 1996, 29 Mar 1997 and 29 Mar 2000. The latest arrival date was
11 Apr 2002.” (Steve Heinl) AND. . .
- “A very aggressive and hungry
male Rufous hummer is looking all over for his feeders. They're going
up now!” wrote Julie Clark from 17 miles south of Lewiston,
Idaho. Mike Patterson said Julie’s sighting is eight days earlier
than any record he has for Idaho!
If YOU see a Rufous Hummingbird in the
West, make sure you report it to Mike
Patterson. And if you see hummers, make sure you let
him know if any flowers are blooming, too!
week’s weather helped? On April 5th, winds started shifting from
the south, which allowed some migrants in the West (including Rufous
hummingbirds) to make it farther north. The south winds have started
pushing some of the early migrants (including Ruby-throated hummingbirds)
up to the mid-Atlantic and New England this week as well. So, what’s
the Rubythroat news?
Moving Steadily North
courtesy of Harlan and Altus Aschen.
been a busy time for these pennyweight powerhouses, as you can see from
this week’s snaphot map, which links to our continuously-updated
MapServer. They’ve now pushed way into Indiana and Illinois. An
observer from Huntsville, Alabama reported:
out the first feeder on March 17 and a second window-mounted feeder
on April 1. The first Rubythroat male was observed at feeder #1 this
afternoon (April 4) at 1:40. This was exciting for me, because this
is my earliest observation, and I've been keeping track since 1990!”
other data suggest early arrivals?
Into Data: Challenge Question #7
Scientists can learn a lot from faithful records kept by citizen observers
over many years. For example, two things they can calculate are:
Range - The difference between the earliest date and
latest date in a set of data.
Median - The 50th percentile. The date in an ordered
set of data where half of the dates are earlier and half of the dates
are later. Half the values are larger than the median, and half are
lower. With an even number of data values, the median is defined as
the average of the two middle values.
Now it’s your turn to be the scientist. Today we share 10 years
of data sent by Lanny Chambers, our Ruby-throated hummingbird expert.
Lanny has yet to see his first hummer of 2004, but you might be curious:
When did Lanny’s all-time earliest hummer arrive? His latest?
What was the range of dates for hummer arrivals? What was the median
date? Find Lanny’s data here:
Challenge Question #7:
“What is the range and what is the median of Lanny Chambers’s
first arrival dates for Ruby-throated hummingbirds in St. Louis? When
do you think Lanny’s first hummer will arrive in 2004?”
(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions
Such an Early Rufous in Idaho? Two-Way Talk and Teacher Tip
Stacy Jon Peterson of Trochilids Website: Winter Hummingbirds, pointed
out that the West Coast Rufous have barely made it over the Cascade
Mountains. This makes it seem very unlikely that Julie's bird near Lewiston,
Idaho came from that direction. Where, then, might it have come from?
Mike Patterson and Stacy had a very interesting exchange of email messages
as they pondered this question. We invite you to read their conversation
and see what questions it answers—-and raises—-for you!
Invite students to “mark up the text” as they read a selection
by circling unfamiliar words, highlighting/underlining key ideas, and
writing notes and questions. Margin notes made by readers include: questions,
predictions, connections, key ideas, and discoveries. Encourages students
to create their own Comprehension Codes for types of responses, such
as “PCs” for personal connections or “D” for
This tip is from Journey North’s Reading
and Writing Connections, which utilize research-based instructional
strategies to help students develop essential skills as they delve deeply
into their understanding of the world through texts with real people,
events, and issues. For more:
Building Underway! Link to Lesson
Rufous Hummingbird females are well known for not wasting any time getting
to work on nests upon arrival at suitable nest sites, Mike Patterson
reminded us when he sent this Rufous observer’s comments: “Ann
from Saanich, BC, Canada saw her first hummingbird on Monday
and by Tuesday she was watching it build a nest about 50 feet up a Douglas
fir tree. It was using fluff from some bulrush left out specifically
for such purposes, as well as spider webs and bits of lichen.”
For a hummingbird to keep her babies alive until they fledge, her nest
must serve all of the following purposes:
to hold the mother's heat tightly against the eggs, and to keep rain
and cold air from leaking in.
- A strong
bed for the mother to spend all her time while she's incubating the
- A stretchable
crib big enough to hold two nestlings that are growing as big as their
- A soft
baby blanket to rest on without any sharp points that could puncture
or crack an egg.
- A camouflaged
hideout that is difficult for predators to find.
Have a scavenger hunt around your school to gather all the real materials
a hummingbird would need to construct a nest that can serve all the
nest purposes listed above. A real hummer nest would be walnut-sized,
but can you fashion these materials into a nest that looks like a real
hummingbird nest but holds two chicken eggs? Can you find any suitable
places where you think a real hummingbird might build her nest if she
lived by your school? Find your nest-building list and blueprints here:
this a hummingbird? How can you tell?
Animal Video Challenge
Sometimes people think they are seeing a hummingbird when they’re
actually seeing a certain look-alike. True, this mystery look-alike
and hummingbirds share many similarities. But many visible clues also
tell you that the mystery animal can't be a hummingbird. Take the video
challenge yourself and make some discoveries!
the Radar: Migrants are Coming!
On April 5, John Idzikowski, Milwaukee posted a hotline report: “There
is a major movement tonight of neotropicals over Brownsville, TX and
a big swarm that left Cuba about 2.5 hours ago. Brownsville is nowhere
near its peak, which will begin in about 10 days. We are having our
second-biggest night so far this spring (3/27 was the biggest), with
the Mississippi River Valley showing the best concentrations on southerly
winds on the backside of the last high; the peak detection colors correspond
to concentrations of 600-800 birds per cubic kilometer.”
how to use NEXRAD maps to interpret bird migration in your area, see
Find Brownsville, Texas on a map. Do you think some of the migrants
were the hummingbirds soon reported to Lanny Chambers or Journey North?
What did John mean by neotropicals? What other questions does John’s
report raise for you? How could you gain information for your questions?
Write them in your science journal, along with what you discover for
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
Far North? Discussion of Challenge Question #5
“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
If you checked Journey North’s MapServer and the data entries
(owl button) up until April 1, you might have seen these results:
According to all reports RECEIVED by April 1, Rufous hummingbirds
reached Ketchikan, AK, at 55.34N. They had arrived in all these states
or provinces: MS, AZ, TX, CA, OR, WA, BC, and AK.
According to all reports entered by April 1, Ruby-throated hummingbirds
reached 38.90 N, reported 3/29 at Vienna, VA. They had reached VA, VA,
and MO, besides TN, FL, LA, AR, AL, OK, SC, MS, GA, NC, and TX. They
had actually already reached into IN, IL and KY, but those sightings
weren’t reported until AFTER April 1.
(Of all the sightings reported, notice how many occurred earlier but
were not reported promptly. How might these reporting delays affect
our weekly interpretations?)
Congratulations to Team members Jessie, Kaitlin, and Kari from
South O'Brien Middle School, for their prediction: "We predict
the Rubythroats will be at 37 degrees latitude and the Rufous will be
at 56 degrees latitude. The states they've reached are Virginia, North
Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas."
Julie from Ms.Pfaff's 7th Grade Science Class at Challenger
Middle School in San Diego, CA answered another way, after much analysis
and calculation. By consulting a range map and considering the weather,
Julie might adjust her prediction a bit, and here it is: “Right
now, the Rufous hummingbirds are between about 50 degrees north latitude
and 30 degrees north latitude. A hummingbird can fly around 25 miles
per hour. Assuming that the hummingbird flies for 10 hours a day, we
can estimate how many miles the hummingbird will travel. 25 miles per
hour multiplied by 10 is 250. That means that a hummingbird will travel
about 250 miles a day. Assume that today is March 25. March 25 to April
1 is a week. If a hummingbird flies north for about 250 miles a day
for 7 days, it would probably fly north for 1,750 miles. I predict that
would put the Rufous Hummingbirds somewhere near 70 degrees north latitude
and 45 degrees north latitude by April 1. The Rufous Hummingbirds would
be in the Canadian provinces of the Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories,
British Columbia, Alberta and maybe even Saskatchewan. We can use the
same procedure for the Rubythroat hummingbirds. They are currently between
25 and 35 degrees north latitude. If they fly north for 1,750 miles,
they will end up between 40 and 60 degrees north latitude by April 1.
The Rubythroat hummingbirds will end up in the Canadian provinces of
Ontario, Quebec and maybe New Brunswick. Both of the hummingbird species
may not fly the whole estimated length of 1750 miles in the past week
because they might have decided to settle in an area.”
Thank you, students, for “noodling through” a tough question
and sharing your predictions!
a Good Territory? Discussion of Challenge Question
“What are at least two things that a male hummingbird looks for
when he establishes a territory?”
“The hummingbird would be looking for an area that was safe from
predators or at least have a good place to be able to see danger coming.
He also needs to find a spot that would have good food available,”
answered Alex, Daisy , Forrest, and Ariana from Grade
Four, Ferrisburgh (VT) Central School.
“The males look for flowers and perches,” wrote Aidan
Besides ample food resources, Adam from Ms. Pfaff's
class at Challenger Middle School pointed out that "good nesting
spots are also very important because it may insure the well-being of
the babies and it may also, possibly, attract a mate."
Teammates Kari, Jessie, and Kaitlin said, "Male
hummingbirds look for a place where hummers already are.” They
thought perhaps hummers looked for a nest where other hummingbirds have
already lived. Do they? See what you can learn about that by again visiting
“Nest Building” on this page, or other sources:
to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:
Answer only ONE question in each e-mail message.
an e-mail message to: email@example.com
2. In the Subject Line of your message write:
Challenge Question #7.
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions
15*, 2004. (Migration Data Only.)
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