Oriole Oriole
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Oriole Migration Update: March 16, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Weather For the Birds
Dr. Aborn's Weather Report

Last time, our "Weather Doctor," David Aborn, predicted the kind of migration weather that wouldn't force many birds to land. "Last week, however, was a different story," writes Dr. Aborn today. And what's happening THIS week? Will the weather mean you'll see more migratory birds? Dr. Aborn says, "Migration is starting to pick up and things should get exciting as the season progresses." Read his full report at:

Migration Mysteries
If you never travel or read, you might think the first birds of spring came out of nowhere. For thousands of years, that's exactly what people thought! Many once believed that swallows burrowed in mud for the winter, or flew to the moon. When people started traveling and communicating over long distances, they suddenly realized that birds traveled. In the late 1700s, John James Audubon tested this. He tied a string around a phoebe's leg to see if that exact bird would return the next year. Sure enough, it did! Other ornithologists started putting rings on bird legs to study them. Today's scientists use special numbered rings for banding birds. Together, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service coordinate all banding research.

This map was made from bird-banding data. It shows data from orioles banded during the breeding season (May - July) and recovered (found) during the wintering months (November - February). The blue lines aren't migratory routes; instead, they 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 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 #4
"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 question, please follow the instructions below.)

Journey North's Oriole Study

Report your Oriole Observations to Journey North

Field Checklist for Spring Oriole Observations
Get ready for the orioles, and join JN's first oriole study of the 21st century! You'll know just what to record and report for your hometown when you print this checklist:

Here's what to report to Journey North
1. FEEDER UP. As soon as you place your oriole feeder outside, report to Journey North. Now you're ready to watch for your first orioles!

2. FIRST ORIOLE SIGHTING. Let us know when your Oriole safely arrives after the long migration from Central America.

3. "LEAF-OUT" of your trees. For many songbird species, the timing of spring migration may be related to leaf-out. When leaves emerge, so do lots of insects. Songbirds may fuel their migration by following the leaf-out, and eating the millions of insects now available. With your help, we'd like to test whether these spring events are inter-related.

4. FIRST ORIOLE NEST-BUILDING. Usually the females are seen flying with nesting materials such as plant fibers or string. For tips to attract Mrs. Oriole, see:

Unpave the Way For Orioles
Join thousands of other students in preparing habitat for orioles. Just think! By creating backyard refuges with these simple suggestions, you can help ensure that the annual migrations to and through your region continue:

Try This! Tropical Travelers Coming Your Way
This week's report is full of tips for attracting and helping orioles. Why is it such a big deal? Conservationists are concerned about some Neotropical migratory species because fewer and fewer birds return each summer. For background information about this conservation issue, read "Silence of the Songbirds" in National Geographic's June 1993 issue (pages 68-90). For more background, and to find out which Neotropical migrants breed in your state or province so you can choose one to study as a class, see:

Cash, Contests, Birds and Cats
Do you love prizes and contests? Do you care about protecting cats and birds? Would you like to win $250 for both yourself and your school or nature center, on top of doing a lot of good for birds and pets? If you're between 6 and 12 years old, this contest is for you! Enter the NATIONAL KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS DAY 2000 POSTER COMPETITION to help publicize National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day on May 13, 2000. Entries are due May 1, and winners will be announced by May 12 on American Bird Conservancy's Website. Your artwork should show a happy, safe, indoor cat. Get more details at:

Home on the Range
Response to Challenge Question #1

We asked the question: "Why do you think it's so much easier to see orioles than ruby-throated hummingbirds in Costa Rica?" These two range maps give the clues.

Range Maps
Macalester College

Baltimore Orioles

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

What did you learn by comparing the wintering ranges? Your answer could agree with what Costa Rica traveler Carrol Henderson reported: "We only saw one ruby-throated hummingbird because they don't go that far south. The Guana Caste area is about as far south as they go.

What's the Difference?
Response to Challenge Question #2

Last time we asked: "What differences can you name between Baltimore orioles and Bullock's orioles?"

Female Bullock's Oriole photo by Chandler Robbins
courtesy of the
Patuxent Bird Identification Info Center

Both are northern orioles, and a Field Guide to birds tells the differences. Look at the photos on this page and see if you can pick out some differences. Baltimore orioles are flame-orange and black, with a solid-black head. The females and young are olive-brown above, burnt orange-yellow below. The birds have two white wing bars. Some females may have traces of black on the head.

Bullock's orioles are also called western orioles. The male Bullock's is distinguished from the male Baltimore oriole by its orange cheeks, large white wing patches, and different tail pattern. The female Bullock's has a by a grayer back and whiter belly than the female Baltimore oriole. Their songs are somewhat different, but much interbreeding takes place, and these two types of orioles are now regarded as conspecific.

Changing Behaviors
Response to Challenge Question #3

"What are some reasons why orioles might change behaviors on their wintering grounds from how they act on the northern breeding grounds in spring?" Here are a few oriole behaviors that differ between the tropics and their breeding grounds, and some possible explanations:
  • Orioles do most of their singing on their breeding grounds, and are quieter on their wintering grounds. This is because they use song to attract a mate and defend a breeding territory--two things they don't think about during winter, even in the warm tropics.
  • Orioles build nests on their breeding grounds. They don't do this anywhere else. A nest provides a safe place to lay eggs and raise young.
  • Orioles eat many more insects on their breeding grounds, and much more fruit and nectar in the tropics. On the breeding grounds they need lots of protein to make eggs and feed growing babies.

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
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 #4 .
3. In the body of your message, give your answer to the question above.

The Next Oriole Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 6, 2000

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