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Hummingbird Migration Update: May 6, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Rubythroats Almost at the Finish Line!
First-seen Rubythroats are now all the way up to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. How exciting! They continue to flood into states and provinces where the first ruby was seen before as the migration fleshes out. Once in North America, migration proceeds at an average rate of about 20 miles per day, and the northward migration is complete by mid-May. Are your feeders up? They’re almost at the finish line! Thank you, Lanny for another year of sharing your maps, data, and answers!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Courtesy of Lanny Chambers,

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Migration Map

Rufous Hummingbirds Making Progress Inland

Mike Patterson says the past week brought many Rufous Hummingbird reports from Montana, where they just arrived April 24. How many Montana sightings do you count? Rufous hummers are making steady progress inland, too. But Mike also pointed out a curious lack of reports from central Oregon. Do you wonder why? We did, so we asked Mike for his thoughts.

Rufous Hummingbird

Courtesy of Mike Patterson,
Neawanna Wetland Ecological Observatory

Rufous Hummingbird
Migration Map

Why So Few Rufous Sightings in Central Oregon?

What are average densities for Rufous Hummingbirds?

Mike’s first guess for the lack of central Oregon sightings had more to do with the birders than the birds: It’s not unusual for birders to choose not to report a species because it's already been reported by someone else! Since many people have reported Calliope Hummingbirds from the same region, Mike had to wonder: “This could be because birders visiting the east side from the west side of the mountains are more inclined to report Calliope (they're more special) or it could mean that, for some reason, Rufous Hummingbirds are just in lower-than-average densities.” What ARE average densities? For that answer, Mike turned to the Oregon Breeding Bird Atlas. Here’s what said about the map here:

"Breeding densities in the Oregon high desert (as we like to call it) are much lower than other parts of the range, as can be seen on the breeding bird atlas map (above). On the map, possible merely indicates that the species was detected at some point in the breeding season. Probable most likely means a male was seen displaying.” (Mike reminds us that Hummingbirds often display for reasons that have nothing to do with breeding.)

“So,” concludes Mike, “Rufous Hummingbirds are either being seen, but not reported--or they booked straight to Idaho and Montana, failing to spend enough time at points in Oregon east of the Cascades to get noticed.” What do YOU think? You’ll want to watch the data in next week’s report, the final report for the season, to see what happens! in the meantime, 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!

Thank you, Mike, for another season of sharing your data, map, and thoughts with Journey North!

Migration’s Not Over: Looking at This Year’s Numbers
Since hummingbirds are thrilling observers in so many northern places now, it would be tempting to say that migration is over—but it’s not! In many areas of the Canadian provinces and in the northern tier of states, people have seen only one or two, or are still waiting for their first hummingbird. Within the next two or 3 weeks, the rest of the males will get situated, and the females will arrive. Seeing the first hummer of the year is a thrill, but watching the migration flesh out and new hummingbirds begin their lives is what brings this fabulous annual cycle to fruition.
According to the maps (also see the table below), which time period has shown the biggest push in movement for (1) Rubythroats? (2) Rufous Hummingbirds? In our first report of the season, you read a page called Ruby-throat and Rufous: Which is Which? The page included a journaling question that asked you to create a Venn diagram in your science journal to show how the two species are alike and different. Perhaps this data will give you something more to add to your Venn diagram:





Before Mar 14




Mar 14 - Mar 27




Mar 28 - Apr 10




Apr 11 - Apr 24




Apr 25 - May 8




Flower-powered Migratory Species: Compare and Contrast
Monarch Butterflies and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are crossing eastern North America right now. Both are known as nectar eaters. They fill their tanks in fields of flowers and head north, repopulating their breeding grounds after the cold, northern winter. Which one reaches your backyard first each spring? Which one is first to cross the border into Canada?

How many similarities and differences can you find between hummingbirds and monarch butterflies? Learn all about the migration of each animal, and about the animal itself. Next, create a Venn diagram to help you graphically organize the similarities and differences between the two species. For links to helpful information see:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Monarch Butterfly
Venn Diagram

Calling All Kids! Challenge Question #10
Now put some teamwork together and see how many similarities and difference you can find between monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. Generate the longest list you can, and send it to us in response to. . .

Challenge Question #10:
"How many similarities and differences can you find between hummingbirds and monarch butterflies? How many similarities and differences can you list between their migrations?"

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

Pounds and Pounds of Sugar

In Nixa, Missouri, Margaret welcomed her first hummer on the 6th of April: “That's the earliest I've ever had them. Now I have six feeders out and as the summer goes on, it looks like I will have to put all my others out, too. Let the fun begin!” Margaret keeps track of the amount of sugar she uses. In a slow summer, she has used 90 pounds. This year she feels it will be more. At any price for sugar, Margaret thinks it’s worth it.

Try This! How many cups of sugar equal one pound? Look in cookbooks to find the answer. Next, find out how much sugar costs at the grocery store. How much is Margaret going to spend per recipe of sugar water? (See recipe below.) How much will she spend on sugar if the hummers drink at least as much as they do in a “slow” summer?

Fill ‘er up!
Here’s the recipe for hummingbird food for your feeder:

  • The basic mixture is 1 part ordinary white granulated sugar to 4 parts water. Before mixing, it is important to first boil the water for several minutes to help keep the feeder sanitary and clean.
  • After boiling, measure the amount of water you need. (If you measure the water first, some water will boil away and mess up the proportions.)
  • After boiling and measuring the water, stir in the sugar while the water is still hot; LET COOL before filling the feeder.
  • Store unused sugar water in the refrigerator. And remember to clean your feeder often. Any sugar water will spoil rapidly in warm weather and especially in direct sunlight. Frequent cleaning is very important to the health of the hummingbirds.

A Peek in the Nest: Photos and Math Journaling Question

Last time you started peeking into a hummingbird nest to watch the eggs hatch and the babies grow with Journey North’s photo safari in Dorothy’s maple tree. You followed along to Day 5 in the babies’ lives. Were you so curious that you kept clicking on each photo until you saw the babies leave the nest? If you didn’t, let’s pick up where we left off, starting with photo "Day 6: Wrinkled Skin." Remember to click on each photo to see in greater size and detail, as well as information to help you answer the questions by each photo. Why is the skin of hummer babies wrinkled when they hatch? Why are their mouths so wide and beaks so brightly colored? On what day do the babies open their eyes? Why don’t baby hummers bicker with each other like other species do? At age 16 days, how many times bigger are they than when they hatched? On what day were the hummers no longer IN the nest, but ON it? Where will they sleep after they leave the nest? Which hummer, male or female, will NEVER sleep in a nest again? Here we go!

Try This! Math Journaling Question
The photo caption told you that each hummer baby weighed 0.5 grams when it hatched. So in about 16 days, they've become 8 times bigger! If a human baby weighed 7 pounds at birth and grew as fast as a hummingbird, how much would that baby weigh at 16 days old?

Capable Babies: Discussion of Challenge Question #8
Last time you saw photos of hummingbird eggs from the time they hatched. We asked: "What are at least two things that baby hummingbirds can do as soon as they hatch out?"

From the time they dry off, baby hummers can (1) hold up their heads and (2) open their mouths to beg for food, and (3) as soon as they swallow, they can poop. Julie from Ms.Pfaff's 7th Grade Science Class at Challenger Middle School in San Diego, CA. neatly expanded this answer when she wrote, “They can't look around because their eyes are closed when they are first hatched. One thing they may do if they are hungry is peep. . .Also, they can open their mouths to try and tell the mother that they are hungry. Also after hatching, they may move around and shake of a little bit.” Thanks, Julie!

A Mean Question: Discussion of Challenge Question #9
Last time we asked: “Based on data given, what’s the mean arrival date for (1) Donald Rose McGhee’s hummingbirds, and (2) Betty’s hummingbirds?”

Kaitlin, Jesse and Kari from South O'Brien Middle School agreed, as did Julie from Challenger Middle School in San Diego: "Donald Rose McGhee's hummingbird mean is April 9th.

But the students differed on Betty's hummingbird mean arrival date. Is it April 26th or April 25? Or Julie's answer of April 24? Follow along, using the instructions in the lesson Calculating the Mean:

We listed the dates in order. Then we assigned each a value, starting with April 21 at a value of 1 (remember, April 22 is listed two times), and added the values:
1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 7 + 8 + 9 = 39

Next, we divided by 9, the number of arrival dates, to find the mean value: 4.3. Finally, we rounded the mean value to 4, because it’s closer to 4 than to 5. Looking on the chart at the value of 5 for this list of dates, we see April 24 as the answer.

Julie added some great observations: “The data were very interesting because the data for each person was clumped together. Donald McGhee's data were especially interesting because the mean date was also the median. If you reorder the dates, you get 7 8 9 10 and 11. It is really interesting how there is a straight in the numbers. The range of dates for his data is April 7-11, which is 5 days.

“Betty's data range was April 21-29, which is 9 days. I think that Betty's range of dates is bigger since she has been keeping track of the hummingbird's arrival dates for a longer time.”

Three cheers and a BIG thanks to these hard-working students who like "mean questions" and sent us their answers!

Year-End Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts!
Please take a few minutes to share your suggestions and comments in our Year-End Evaluation Form below.

In the coming year, Journey North will be fundraising to secure increased support from foundations, corporations and individuals. Your supportive comments will be a tremendous help. Thank you!

Journey North
Year End Evaluation

Please share your thoughts

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

IMPORTANT: 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 #10.
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 May 13* (Migration Data and Answer to CQ #10 only)

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