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Oriole Migration Update: March 26, 1998

Today's Report Includes

This oriole feeder is almost guaranteed to attract an oriole within hours!
For more information.

Unpave the Way for Orioles!
Though there's no word yet of their arrival, orioles will soon be flooding across the U.S. border and heading your way! Our observers in Texas tell us the migration peaks in mid-April, but the early birds should be coming any day.

Make sure your nectar feeder is ready and waiting when the orioles return from their tropical winter vacation. Imagine the fun when students in schools across North America see the first oriole land outside the window after its long trip back from Central or South America.
What to Report to Journey North

Report Migrating Orioles, Leaf-Out and Unpave the Way Projects to Journey North!

1. Report that you've helped to "Unpave-the-Way" for orioles, as soon as you place your nectar feeder outside. We'll include your site on our habitat map! See Unpave-the-Way for Wildlife.
2. Report the FIRST Oriole you see this spring.
3. Report "leaf-out" of your deciduous trees.
Here's why: For many songbird species, the timing of spring migration may be related to leaf-out. This is because when leaves emerge, so do lots of insects. Songbirds may fuel their migration by following the leaf-out, and eating the millions of insects available at that time. With your help, we'd like to test whether these spring events are inter-related.

Where are the Orioles Coming From?

Map courtesy of
Macalester College

From places where they're known by entirely different names! You'll recognize Mexico's "Bolsero Norteno" and Puerto Rico's "Calandria de Norte" as the Baltimore Oriole when it arrives in your home town. If you live in western North America, watch for Venezuela's "Turpial de Bullock"--the Bullock's oriole. Actually both species of oriole we're tracking this year, Baltimore and Bullocks, come from the same wintering regions in Mexico, Central and South America. (See map.) However, as the map on the WWW shows, the breeding grounds of these orioles are different: Baltimore orioles breed in the east and Bullock's orioles breed in the west.

How Do We Know?
It took decades to answer that question!

Map courtesy of Alan Davenport
UFWS Office of Migratory Bird Management

This map was made from bird-banding data. It shows data from Orioles that were banded during the breeding season (May-July) and recovered (found) during the wintering months (November-February). The blue lines connecting the points do not show the migratory route. Rather, the lines connect data points for each individual bird. By looking at this map, you can see where Orioles from your state or province might spend the winter. These data were not easy to collect! Of the 92,010 Orioles banded, only 959 have been recovered. Even fewer banding recoveries are on this map, since we are only looking at those records described above.

Challenge Question # 1
"What is the rate of recovery for banded Orioles? That is, how many Orioles must be banded for one Oriole band to be found again?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

What Route do Orioles Take?
The trip back from the tropics-- about to take place any day-- is among the most incredible in the bird world. Imagine songbirds gathering at the tip of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, and waiting there until their instincts say the wind and weather are right. Whey they take off they must cross the open ocean--unable to stop, drink, eat or rest until they reach the other side. For as many as 500 miles they travel through what are the riskiest hours of their lives. (Depending on their destination, some individuals probably travel up the coast. See map.) One can't help but wonder:

Challenge Question # 2
"How long do you think it would take an oriole to fly across the Gulf of Mexico? How long do you think it would take a ship to travel the same distance?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

When Do They Migrate?
How do songbirds decide whether it's a good day to travel?

Once again this spring, Texas ornithologist Dr. David Aborn, has offered to help answer this question. "As I am sure you are aware, weather plays a very important role in bird migration," says Aborn. "This spring, I will teach you how to read a weather map to try to predict areas of the country that might see large numbers of migrants landing."

"By the way," he added, "I saw my first monarch butterfly of the season yesterday (3/24/98) and I saw the first barn swallows and rough-winged swallows here today (3/25/98). Things are moving!"
Until next week,
Dr. David A. Aborn

Try This!
Over the next few weeks, practice reading and interpreting weather maps, from a songbird's point of view.

At the same time, consider these questions:

Challenge Question # 3
"Why do you think most songbirds migrate at night?"

Challenge Question # 4
"How do they find their way?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions

Please answer ONLY ONE question in EACH e-mail message.

1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-oriole@learner.org

2. In the Subject Line of your message write:
Challenge Question # 1 (or #2, or #3, or #4)

3. In the body of EACH message, answer ONE of today's questions.

Don't Forget!
Please include the name of your school and your location so we can credit you properly for your answers.

The Next Oriole Update Will be Posted on April 9, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.