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Predicting the Route
of the Hummingbird Spring Migration

Overview
As hordes of ruby-throated hummingbirds journey from Mexico and Central America in the spring, where do you think they will arrive first? Which routes will they use? Each week, students will consider these questions and make new predictions. As they watch these energetic migrants spread throughout their northern breeding range, they'll begin to discover why the hummers travel where they do.

Preparation
Print a copy of the blank Hummingbird Migration Map and the Migration Route Prediction Chart for each student or student group.

 

Time
1-2 periods;
revisit regularly during weekly migration updates

  Standards

Laying the Groundwork

  • Challenge students to predict the route of the Rubythroat (or Rufous) migration from Mexico and Central America as the birds enter the United States in the spring. Ask, In which U.S. states do you think the travelers will arrive first, second, third, and so on? Have them draw their predicted routes on the blank migration map. They should then record the names of the states where they predict the birds will arrive in the left-hand column of the Migration Route Prediction chart. (Note: If you are tracking the rufous hummingbird migration, complete a chart for that species.)
  • Ask students to explain the thinking behind their predictions and respond to one or both of these questions in their journals:

    Why do you think the migration will travel in the direction you predicted?
    (What do you already know or what have you observed in the past?)

Exploration

  1. Each time students receive a new News Update, they should record the names of the states where the birds actually arrived, in chronological order. (They can check their charts against our 2009 Predictions and Results chart for Ruby-throated or Rufous hummingbirds.)
    Adaptation for younger students:
    Simply have students count and name the states where the hummers have arrived.
  2. Next, have them revisit their predictions and explanations. If they make changes in their charts, ask, What new information or observations caused you to revise your thinking?
  3. At the end of the season, ask students to describe the patterns they saw and compare them with their initial predictions. Ask them to form hypotheses to explain why the hummingbirds traveled when and where they did. (For instance, "Hummingbirds travel faster when they're near water.") Ask, How could we test our hypotheses?

Making Connections — Journaling and Discussion Questions

  • In what ways was the migration similar to your original prediction?
  • In what ways was the migration different than you predicted? Explain what you did not know originally that caused your prediction to be off.
  • What did you learn about climate and geography from tracking the migration?
  • What did you learn about hummingbird biology?

Assessment
As you listen to discussions, review student journals, and see how students revise prediction charts and maps, use the Making Predictions Using Data rubric.

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