with Neotropical Migratory Birds
South of the Border: Tropical Travelers Coming Your Way
Pick up any field guide to North American birds and flip through the pages.
Of the hundreds of bird species you'll see, fewer than half remain in the
U.S. and Canada during the winter months. Every fall, approximately 350 of
the 660 bird species that breed in North America head south of the U.S. border
to spend the winter.
Scientists refer to these birds as "neotropical migrants", or just "neotrops".
(The word "neo" means new and "tropical" refers to the
region between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. This region includes
such places as Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands and parts of
Which species are "neotropical migrants"? Surprisingly,
the maps in few field guides show the winter range of each species--as
if they simply
disappear! (The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds is one
good guide that does give this information.) Here's a list of 160 of the 350
are concerned about some neotropical migratory species because fewer
and fewer numbers return each summer. For background information about
this conservation issue read "Silence of the Songbirds" in
the June 1993 issue of National Geographic (pages 68-90).
B. Using our list
Migratory Birds and a field guide as resources, determine which
neotropical migrants breed in your state or province.
C. Using input from your
class, choose a neotropical migrant that is found in your state or province
to study as a class. (Older students might want to form groups and study
more than one species.)
1. Why do you think
so many bird species go to the Neotropics for the winter?
2. How does bird diversity
in your area change through the seasons? Write descriptive paragraphs
comparing the sounds of summer with the sounds of the middle of
winter in your region.