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Hummingbird Migration Update: February 17, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

What's Hot, What's Not for Hummers in Winter?
Are you one of the many North American students who can't see wild hummingbirds in February? You are. . .unless you live near the Gulf Coast. The tiniest birds on the planet don't stick around in places where ice and snow are the normal scene in winter, nor where folks haven't seen the sun for months. Instead, the tropics are the hot spots hummers head for in winter. The hummers are on their wintering grounds right this minute, enjoying sunny skies, toasty temps, and plenty of food. That's what's hot for hummers in winter.

Try This!
Research what it's like on the wintering grounds of hummers. Then imagine being a hummingbird in Mexico or Central America right now. Write and illustrate a travel brochure to advertise what's hot in winter for hummers so they'll ALL want to be there!

Why Come Back?
Why do you think hummers and other songbirds migrate, anyway? If things are so good "down south," why don't birds stay there all year? The answer might come to you if you use a globe and a grid to estimate the area of landmass above and below the equator. Here's how:
  1. Make a grid by drawing lines one-half or one-fourth inch apart on a piece of transparent plastic (from a sandwich bag, for example). Use a ruler and felt-tipped pen to draw the grid on the plastic.

  2. Place the grid over Canada and the United States. Count square units. Repeat for Mexico and Central America.

  3. Compare square units of land available in Canada and the US with square units of land available in Mexico and Central America. What does this geography mean to migratory birds?

Now, use what you learned from the exercise above and from researching your travel brochures to answer this week's:

Challenge Question #1
"If things are so good "down south," why don't hummers stay there all year?"

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

Tiny Size, Humongous Power
For a long time, people simply didn't believe that tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds from the United States and Canada could possibly fly under their own power all the way down to Mexico and Central America. To explain it, they said the hummers must be riding on the backs of bigger birds. The truth is, hummers are so feisty that they often chase larger birds. One of our Journey North writers actually watched a hummingbird dive-bomb a Bald Eagle once, fiercely and fearlessly dropping down to the nape of his neck again and again. Perhaps, long ago, someone watched a hummer drop down or come up from dive-bombing a goose and mistakenly thought that the hummer was riding on the goose!

As you wait for the hummers to return this spring, learn more about these tiny winged wonders. How fast do they fly? How long do they live? How much do they eat? You'll be amazed when you visit:

How Heavy is That?
A tiny hummingbird weighs just one-tenth of an ounce, or 2.8 grams. How heavy is that? Find out and you'll have the answer to:

Challenge Question #2:
"Besides a ruby-throated hummingbird, what other things weigh 1/10th of an ounce, or 2.8 grams?"

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

Predict When Hummingbirds Will Migrate
When will the hummers head north again? You can simply guess, of course, but how might you make a logical prediction? Journey North offers some tips in our:

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:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #1 (OR #2)
3. In the body of your message, answer the question

The Next Hummingbird Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 16, 2000.

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