you follow the spring journeys of hummingbirds and monarchs, compare the
species and their migrations by focusing on the food that drives their journeys!
Compare and Contrast
and Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are crossing eastern North America right
now. Both fill their tanks with nectar from flowers as they head north
to their breeding grounds. Which one reaches your backyard or the Canadian
border first each spring?
needs to obtain food energy from flower nectar. (Hummingbirds also eat
sap and insects.) Their physical and behavioral adaptations, life cycles,
habitats, and migration timing are all linked to that need for nectar.
Exactly when flowers bloom and secrete nectar is affected by daylength
and weather during the spring season. For instance, a cold or dry spring
can slow down the flowering of important nectar plants.
look at and compare the current monarch and hummingbird migration maps
on this Research
Page. Ask, What similarities or patterns do you notice? How would
you explain them?
some of the patterns might exist. If it doesn't come up, ask, How
do these animals get energy for long migrations? If students aren't
familiar with the animals' spring food sources, ask where they've seen
monarchs or hummingbirds feed. Invite the class to compare these species
— and their relationships with nectar sources — throughout
the spring, your class can do the following:
* Compare the migration timing and paths of these species via Journey
North migration maps and reports.
* Compare weather maps with migration maps for each species.
* Observe both species feeding (depending on your location).
- Get students
to compare these species by having them visit links on the Research
Page. Be sure to record questions the comparisions raise as a way
to stimulate further research.
(Click for a larger one or have students draw their own!)
Have students create Venn diagrams to organize the similarities and differences
between the two species.
and Discussion Questions
As students learn about the animals and their migrations, assign one or
more of these questions. Students should document new information, understanding,
and their own questions in journals.
- How do
the animals' habitats compare? (Reminder: habitat includes food, water,
shelter and space.)
- What are
the energy sources for each of their migrations?
- How do
the animals' life cycle stages affect their food needs? (Reminder: think
carefully about the monarch's life cycle and related needs in spring.)
- How are
these species physically adapted for obtaining food?
- How are
these species behaviorally adapted for obtaining food?
- What affects
the availability of their spring food sources?
- What factors
seem to affect the timing and path of their migrations?
- In what
ways does weather seem to affect the food availability or migration
of each species? (Reminder: monarchs are cold-blooded; hummingbirds
That Fuel Migration: Observe, Compare, and Think!
Careful observations of the types of flower hummingbirds and monarchs
select reveals interesting differences. Why does each creature choose
the flower types it does? Explore what makes each animal a good "fit"
for its flowers.