Oriole Migration Update: May 17, 2001
Today's Report Includes:
Orioles Surge Forth!
This week's Migration Data are provided below--9 new Bullock's and 108 new Baltimore sightings! You can make your own migration map, or print and analyze ours.
The orioles keep coming! Many Baltimore and Bullock's Orioles are reaching their nesting grounds, and the migration is nearly complete. Some oriole watchers in the mountains and in the north are still patiently waiting, and some southern oriole watchers are still feasting on late migrants, but soon orioles will be settling in and nesting, producing a whole new batch of new little orioles. Reports like the following are proof!
On May 16, one reporter in Madison, Wisconsin (firstname.lastname@example.org), reported seeing at least 33 orioles in one city park. Meanwhile, on the same day, this happy news came from Alberta, Canada: "The first Baltimores were seen in Calgary today!" (email@example.com)
As orioles settle in and work out their territorial arrangements, they hunker down to the serious business of raising a family. Every oriole starts its life in an egg, and every adult oriole works hard to ensure new eggs will populate the oriole world forever.
Try This! Visualization Activity
Oriole Eggs and Babies: Some Fun Questions!
The average weight of an oriole egg is 2.99 grams. The average weight of the empty shell is 0.20 grams.
How many days does it take a baby oriole to reach its fledging weight of about 34 grams? How many times an hour from sunrise to sunset do the parents come to the nest to feed the babies so they can reach this weight? If an 8-pound human baby grew at the same rate as an oriole, what would it weigh after 12 days? The good news is that you'll find the answers to ALL the challenging questions above by going to this page:
Dr. Aborn's Weather Forecast for the Birds
But things have been slow for David and other people in the southern US, where migration is coming to an end. David reminds us, "Most of the birds have left the tropics and are making their way north to breed. Also, there won't be any fronts to force stragglers to land. This does not mean there won't be anything to see! Many warblers, thrushes, vireos, and other migrants breed in the south, so go out and look for them and listen to their songs. For people farther north, things are reaching their peak. The birds we have been enjoying in the south are just reaching areas farther north, so look for things to be active for another few weeks. In fact, there is another cold front that is moving across the northern US and southern Canada, so folks in the upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and New England should have another few good days of birding."
David closes by saying: "I hope you have enjoyed these weather reports, and have learned how amazing bird migration is. I know I am always fascinated by it, and I enjoy teaching others about migration. I also hope that you have been learning about the things you can do to help migratory birds so we can all enjoy them for many years to come. Have a great summer!"
Journey North says a heartfelt THANKS to David Aborn for helping us interpret and forecast the oriole migration this spring, and for the great Challenge Questions he asks! Find the weather maps and read more about David's forecast and the wonderful migratory bird species reported in David's complete letter:
Try This! Comparing Migrations
How does the oriole migration of Spring 2001 compare with the migration of Spring 2000? A glance at the maps tells the story.
Here's how to compare the two migrations:
Teacher Tip: Communicating Research Results
One of the most important steps in a scientist's work is sharing research results with other scientists. This is how the body of scientific knowledge is built--and how it constantly changes, as new research findings replace the old.
As a way to sum up and show your learning this spring, write your own scientific paper based on the Oriole migration that's just finishing. Journey North offers this lesson to guide students through the steps of writing a real scientific paper:
Befriend the Birds
Jillaine's helpful hints for attracting orioles are great! If you don't happen to have a horse handy like Jillaine
does, orioles also use dog fur--especially from longer-haired breeds like golden retrievers and spaniels. These
natural fibers are waterproof, shrinkproof, and easy for orioles to manage for nest building. And to help your
orioles' great-great-great grandchildren, consider planting a disease-resistant elm tree for them to nest in!
Duking it Out
Gary Phillips of Conway, SC got a report that a pair of Baltimore Orioles is hanging around someone's house, "and the male is duking it out with his reflection in the homeowner's car side-view mirror!"
Laura Erickson explains what's REALLY going on, and offers a solution so the oriole won't hurt himself: "Orioles are attracted to the color orange, whether it is on a piece of fruit, another oriole, or a reflected image. The worst problem with reflections is that when the territorial male bird sees his image and puts on an aggressive posture, he sees the reflection matching his level of aggression step by step, continually increasing the intensity of his response. Fortunately, car mirrors are small enough that it's not hard to tape up a piece of cardboard or paper over them when the car isn't in use.
Milkweed's Not Just for Monarchs
The Fun is Just Beginning
To find oriole nests, listen to their songs and then follow their movements. Orioles prefer nesting in large shade trees. Their nests may be in very high branches, but are usually on the outer twigs, so it's sometimes possible to watch them. (Use your binoculars and watch from a distance so you don't "tip off" any oriole predators.) Print off your own list of things you might look for:
And don't forget to learn the songs of the orioles that breed in your geographic area:
A Swift Trip: Discussion of Challenge Question #6
Last time we asked you to compare the migrations of orioles and hummingbirds: "Why do you think orioles push northward during a single week in late April or early May, while hummingbirds gradually move northward for 8-10 weeks from March to mid-May?"
Hummingbirds eat a wide variety of tiny flying insects swarming about the tips of newly budding branches, and they also feed on the sap from sapsucker borings. So even if the weather is unpredictable, they can count on plenty of food when they first arrive. Orioles require much larger insects, such as caterpillars, which don't hatch until buds emerge. So orioles must wait until leaf-out. By then, their hormones are urging them forward so they can set up their territories and start nesting, so they move north FAST!
How Orioles Fill the Bill: Discussion of Challenge Question #7
Last time we talked about gaping. We asked, "Look in a field guide at the bills of orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, starlings, and other birds that gape. What do their bills have in common? How does the shape of their bills help with gaping?"
Did you notice that all these beaks are stout at the base, but pointed at the tip? The shape itself is ideal for poking into something, and the base's thick attachment to facial muscles, plus its triangular shape, make it more powerful in opening against outer pressure.
Handy Beaks: Discussion of Challenge Question #8
Last time we asked, "For what other uses does an oriole need its beak? Name as many uses as you can. How does the beak shape help with the uses you named?"
All bird beaks have to serve as a mouth and nose. Most also serve as hands. And what does an oriole need "hands" for? With your help, we've come up with this list:
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