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Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: May 7, 2004

Today's Report Includes:

Little Progress in the Journey North

Once again this week, the most significant news is how few migration sightings have been reported--only 6 during the past week. (The others listed were REPORTED after the April 30 update but OCCURRED earlier.) Just one new state to add to the list this week. Before you look at the results to date, can you figure out which state it is?

Greater Numbers Predicted Next Week
If past years' patterns are an accurate predictor, we expect the number of sightings to jump next week. Sightings typically double after the 2nd week of May. Please watch for fresh, new butterflies of the next generation. They will continue the migration in the wake of their parents.
The Monarch Life Cycle
From egg to adult in about one month.

Of those butterflies that over-wintered in Mexico, few are still alive today. After all, they would be very, very old...

Discussion of Challenge Question #18: How Old is the Butterfly?
Last week we asked, How old would a butterfly be on April 30, 2004 that had emerged last summer on August 30, 2003?

"Eight months old!" agreed Kristy, Akshat, Betty, Sadia, Jill, Amanda, Lucas, Ben, Jigar, Megan, Rocio, Seisy and Nimrod--all in New Jersey--along with Mrs. Nunnally's second grade class in Bedford, NH.

It's the Breeding Season: Male Vs. Female Monarch Behavior
Monarch Butterflies that live in the summer die after only 2-6 weeks. Reproduction is the focus of these butterflies' lives. Based on their need to reproduce, how do you think the behavior of male and female monarchs might be different? Dr. Karen Oberhauser discusses this topic:

Try This! How Fast Can You Find 500 Milkweed Plants?
If you had to find 500 milkweed plants, as a female monarch must do, in order to lay one egg per plant, how far would you have to travel? The next time you're on a walk, count the number of milkweed plants you see. Then imagine how much farther you'd have to walk to find 500 plants!

Flower-powered Migratory Species: Compare and Contrast
Monarch Butterflies and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are both crossing eastern North America right now. Both are known as nectar eaters. They fill their tanks with nectar from 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 #19
Now let’s put our heads together and see how many similarities and difference we can find between monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. Generate the longest list you can, and send it to us in response to Challenge Question #

Challenge Question #19
"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.)

Songbirds Fly Under Night-time Skies
by Elizabeth Howard

Last night, a major influx of songbirds occurred where I live. When I woke up this morning, there they were! High in a tree outside my window in Vermont--fresh from Central America--a brilliant orange oriole suddenly sang his song. From the meadow below came the exuberant bubbling of bobolinks--a far cry from the South American grassland where they spent the winter.

Photo: Chan Robbins

Make a Star Compass!

Many bird species migrate at night, orioles and bobolinks among them. Why do they travel in the dark? Let’s think this through...

An "adaptation" is a physical or behavioral feature that evolved in response to an organism's environment, due to pressures for survival.

Remember, migration is a behavioral adaptation. Let’s look at the songbird’s environment. How does the behavior of migrating at night help songbirds to survive?

  • Stars: The stars help songbirds navigate.
  • Wind: The winds die down at night, so flight is smoother.
  • Predators: The oriole’s predator, the hawk, can't fly at night so traveling through unfamiliar territory is safer at night.
  • Food: Songbirds can fuel up during the day, when they can see, to prepare for night-time flights.
  • Temperature: It's cooler at night, so exercising birds don't overheat as easily.

Do Monarchs Migrate by Night or by Day?
What about monarch butterflies? Do they travel at night too? Think about the monarch’s environment. Think about what you’ve learned about monarch migration. Consider your own experiences with butterflies. Then answer this question:

Challenge Question #20
"Do you think monarch butterflies migrate during the night, the day, or both night and day? Why?"

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

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 Monarch Challenge Question

1. Address an e-mail message to:

2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #19 (or #20)

3. In the body of your message, answer the question above.

The Next Monarch Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 14, 2004

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