"Wish You Were Here"
Vacation Postcards From Orioles!


When the oriole returns to your backyard this spring, it will have just completed a remarkable round trip journey to Central America and back. The tropics are a great place to spend the winter if you're a songbird from the north. Every fall, approximately 350 of the 660 bird species that breed in North America--including orioles-- head south of the U.S. border to spend the winter in the tropics. If you were an oriole wintering in the tropics, what would you write on a postcard to someone back home?


  • Have students consult a map and choose a Central American country where orioles spend the winter. Provide time for students to use reference books and the Internet to gather facts and see pictures of their over-wintering countries.

  • Have everyone imagine they are orioles on their wintering grounds. Ask:

    What route did you take to get there? How far did you fly? What did you see along the way? What do you do all day? What do you eat? How many others do you hang out with? Which species do you see from your summer breeding grounds back home? What's good to eat? What's the scenery like? How about the weather? What's happening outside your window? How long will you stay?

  • Have each student write and illustrate a postcard to a feathered friend back home, using the questions above and incorporating their findings from research.

  • Invite volunteers to read their postcards. As students share information, list their interesting discoveries. You'll soon discover what an adaptable bird the oriole is!


  1. Display postcards with a map of the tropics, attaching each postcard with a yarn to the country from which it was written.

  2. Design and write travel brochures for the various oriole wintering grounds.

  3. Conduct a quiz show after students turn their research into "Where in the World" riddles. Remember to include latitude and longitude clues!

  4. Tell students they've been hired to design a jetliner complete with logo for the brand new "Oriole Airlines." Designs should incorporate the facts they've uncovered about orioles.