Four birds make the trip south in this game:
Distance: They breed in Alaska, SW Canada, and NW United States
and winter in Mexico. Their journey length is anywhere from 300-3,750
miles. They have the longest route of all the hummingbirds.
Elapsed Time: Roughly 145 hours, not counting sleep, 6-7 days for
Food: plant nectar, pollen, and tiny insects, fruit juice, sap from
sapsucker wells, (during fall migration they rely largely on late-blooming
**They use up a lot of energy, with flight taking on different purposes.
Sometimes flight is used to obtain food and other times it is used
solely for straight migratory flight.
***Since these birds breed in northern regions they tend to be more
cold hardy than any other North American hummingbird.
Distance: They breed in the North American grasslands, and winter
as far south as Argentina. They migrate through the Isthmus of Panama,
since they must stay over land to ride the thermals (less energy
use/ very little refueling, partial fasting) down into South America.
Their journey may take anywhere between 3,750 to 7,500 miles. They
have the longest route of any North American hawk.
Elapsed Time: Migration starts in August and ends in October, definite
time lapse for each bird is up to 1 month.
Food: Rodents, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and insects (during
fall migration they rely on locust swarms or insects that have been
stirred up by farmers cutting their crops)
**These hawks sometimes travel in large flocks called kettles (thousands).
***Hawk numbers have dropped due to pesticides. Hundreds of hawks
eat grasshoppers and other insects by following farm equipment.
These ingested insects are coated in insecticides that kill the
Distance: They breed in North American grasslands and wet meadows
(Prairie Pothole), and winter in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
Their journey may take anywhere between 5,000-6,800 miles.
Elapsed Time: 2-3 months for migration
Food: Seeds, insects, and rice (primarily rice and crop seeds during
**These birds are night migrants that use the stars and the earth’s
magnetic forces. They also utilize frequent rest stops for refueling.
Some Bobolinks cross the Gulf of Mexico on their migration route.
***These birds experience nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Distance: They breed in Northern Canada along coastal estuaries
and lagoons, and winter in the Gulf of Mexico. Their journey is
either short or very long. The mileage is 1,500-10,000 miles. On
average 2,500 miles is flown non-stop.
Elapsed Time: 60 hours for non-stop flights, approximately 2 non-stop
trips are taken for the total migration.
Food: Seeds, invertebrates, mollusks, insects, and horseshoe crab
eggs (stop over point in Delaware Bay/ horseshoe crabs nest here)
**High tide forces them inland to forage for food.
***These birds fly in huge flocks that reach speeds of 30-40 miles
Migratory Habits and Weather Patterns
Students collect and analyze data to investigate any correlation
between the migratory habits of the American Robin and the weather
patterns, (temp, wind speed, and moisture)
- Calendars for recording data (one for each student plus one class
- Weather station, newspapers, or internet access for gathering weather
- Calculators (if desired
- Graph paper
- Colored pencils
- Discussion: Did you ever wonder if the early departure of robin
is indicative of an early winter? Or conversely, if their early
arrival indicates an early spring? What correlation, if any, exists
between migratory birds habits and the weather patterns? Record
student predictions (hypotheses) about this question prior to
the next step.
- In the fall, starting in September, have students start keeping
track of robins observed daily on their calendars. Also have students
keep track of daily temperature, rainfall, and wind speeds. Continue
this process throughout the school year.
- In November, begin to gather students' individual data into
an overall collection (but continue collecting and recording data
throughout the winter) With the weather data, compute weekly averages,
means, medians, modes, and range. With robin data, calculate the
average numbers of robins sighted each week.
3. Next, have students create graphs for the averaged class data
and also for their own individual observations. Older students may
choose to make one graph with weeks on the x-axis and on the y-axis
have the average temperature in one color, average rainfall in another
color, average wind speed in another, and number of robin sightings
in the brightest color. Discuss any patterns or correlations. Discuss
how closely individual observations parallel those of the entire
group. Have students calculate what percent of the total observations
they contributed on a monthly basis.
- Repeat this process in the spring and see if a pattern emerges.
This lesson should ideally be done annually to make comparisons
from year to year. Thus patterns and trends can be observed in
an ongoing process.
Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day throughout your school.
to learn what you can do.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service IMBD Web Site
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Birds Web Site
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Partners in Flight