DAKOTA PROJECTS

WHERE HAVE THE BIRDS GONE ?


Where Have The Birds Gone?
is a mapping activity that will allow students to discover where South Dakota birds spend their winters.

Objectives

This lesson is designed to be incorporated into elementary or middle school (grades 4 to 8) curriculum units on birds. This
activity integrates science, mathematics, and geography. Students will gain an understanding of South Dakota bird migration,
learn the geography of the western hemisphere, and develop their mapping skills by plotting locations using latitude and
longitude coordinates.

Materials

For this activity, you will need a large map of the western hemisphere with latitude and longitude lines indicated, a field
guide to North American birds, a copy of the Banding and Site Records List , string, scissors, and thumb tacks or other
markers. Optional: a magazine photo of each species listed on the Banding and Site Records List.

Background

Very few of the birds that can be seen in South Dakota during the spring, summer or fall stay through the long, cold South
Dakota winter. Most of the birds head for warmer locations. The Birds of South Dakota will provide information about the
birds' departure and return dates. Not all species leave and return during the same month. By November, most migratory
species have left South Dakota. Many ducks and geese will return in the spring, as early as February and March, while most
warblers won't return until April or May. In some species, red-winged blackbirds for example, males of the species will
return in the spring before the females.

The species records marked with an asterisk on the Banding and Site Records List are actual records from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service Bird Banding Laboratory for birds banded in South Dakota and recovered in their wintering grounds.
The unmarked records are indications of where the birds are found during the winter according to information reported in
The Encyclopedia of North American Birds and The Birds of South Dakota. Please be aware that the species have a
greater winter distribution than that listed in this activity; the yellow warbler, for example, is found throughout
Central and South America, not just in Cuba and Peru.

Much of our knowledge of bird migration has come from bird banding records. Bird banders must have a Federal license to
trap and band birds. Each small aluminum band has a number that is registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Bird Banding
Laboratory. Information on banded birds is maintained in computers at the Lab. If someone finds a banded bird, the finder
should send the number, date, and location of the recovery to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird
Management, 12100 Beach Forest Road, Laurel, Maryland, 20708. The laboratory will record the information in their
computer, notify the original bander of the recovery, and let the person who found the band know the species of bird, and
when and where it was banded.


Fig. 1: A Federal Bird Band


Many towns in South Dakota participate in a Christmas Bird Count during late December or early January to tally the
species that remain for the winter. Christmas Bird Counts are held each year at Aberdeen, Badlands National Park,
Brookings, Deuel County, Madison, Pierre, Rapid City, Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Shade Hill, Sioux Falls,
Sturgis, Waubay, Wilmot and Yankton. The June issues of the quarterly journal of the South Dakota Ornithologist's Union
(SDOU) contain the records for each year's Christmas Counts for all the South Dakota locations. Individual students who are
particularly interested in birds and would like to participate in this activity or subscribe to the SDOU journal can contact
Dan Tallman at NSU Box 740, Aberdeen SD 57401 for information.

Some common bird species that spend the winter in South Dakota are: bald eagle, golden eagle, rough-legged hawk,
ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, rock dove, eastern screech-owl, great horned owl, downy woodpecker, hairy
woodpecker, northern flicker, horned lark, blue jay, american crow, black-capped chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch,
white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, cedar waxwing, northern shrike, european starling, american tree sparrow,
dark-eyed junco, red crossbill, common redpoll, pine siskin, american goldfinch, evening grosbeak, and house sparrow. In
places such as Pierre, where there is open water throughout the winter, some ducks and geese will remain.

Method

Provide students with a field guide to birds and a large map of the western hemisphere that has clearly marked longitude and
latitude lines. Photocopy the Banding and Site Records List. Have the students look up the listed bird species in a field
guide so that they know the bird's size and appearance. Provide students with a photocopy of the Migration Data Chart.
Students should enter each species' name and body length on the chart in order, from smallest to largest. For each species on
the Banding and Site Records List, draw a line or attach a string on the map beginning in South Dakota and extending to
each location identified by latitude and longitude. These winter locations for the species can be marked with pins, or with
names or pictures of the birds. Using the map scale, students should determine the approximate length of the trip made by
each individual bird included on the list. As they are completing the map, students should enter, onto the Migration Data
Chart, the country name and length of migration for each species record.

After the map and chart have been completed, have students look for migration patterns. What directions do most birds
migrate? Where do most of these South Dakota birds go? Do larger birds migrate farther than smaller birds? Do all birds of
the same species go to the same location for the winter? Do similar species have similar migrations? (Compare, for
example, the migrations of all duck and goose species.)

Extensions

Encourage students to investigate where additional species migrate and which species remain in South Dakota for the winter
(see the References section for resources). Have students find out what foods the birds eat and their habitat. Discuss why it
might be important for the migratory species to leave the state. What do our winter resident birds eat and what is their
habitat? Why can they stay? What percent of the bird species known from South Dakota remain here during the winter?

KEY

Bird Species
Country or State
 
Bird Species
Country or State
Franklin's Gull 
Guatemala 
 
W. Meadowlark 
Louisiana 
Texas 
 
Texas 
Peru 
 
Pintail Duck 
Mexico 
*Bullock's Oriole 
Costa Rica 
 
Cuba 
*Marsh Hawk 
Texas 
 
Canada Goose 
New Mexico 
Louisiana 
 
Texas 
*Red-tailed Hawk 
Louisiana 
 
Snow Goose 
Texas 
Texas 
 
Mexico 
*Burrowing Owl 
Texas 
 
Wood Duck 
Texas 
Texas 
 
Louisiana 
*Blue Jay 
Oklahoma 
 
Yellow Warbler 
Peru 
Texas 
 
Cuba 
Texas 
 
Wilson's Phalarope 
Falkland Islands 
*Harris' Sparrow 
Texas 
 
Argentina 
Oklahoma 
 
Barn Swallow 
Panama 
*White-throated Sprarrow 
Louisiana 
 
Argentina 
Texas 
 
Bobolink 
Brazil 
*Chipping Sparrow 
New Mexico 
 
Argentina 
*Red-eyed Vireo 
Costa Rica 
 
Swainson's Hawk 
Argentina 
*Warbling Vireo 
El Salvador 
 
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
Mexico 
*Robin 
Arkansas 
 
Costa Rica 
Texas 
 
Great Blue Heron 
Louisiana 
Oklahoma 
 
Columbia 
Louisiana 
 
Venezuela 
Yellow-headed Blackbird 
Mexico 
 
Eastern Bluebird 
Louisiana 
Texas 
 
Texas 
Red-winged Blackbird 
New Mexico 
 
Chimney Swift 
Peru 
Louisiana 
 
Ecuador 
Common Grackle 
Louisiana 
 
Purple Martin 
Peru 
Mississippi 
 
Bolivia 
Bird Species
Laitude
Longitude
 
Bird Species
Latitude
Longitude
Franklin's Gull 
14.1 N 
91.5 W 
 
W. Meadowlark 
32.0 N 
93.2 W 
33.5 N 
98.2 W 
 
33.1 N 
95.5 W 
3.9 N 
80.9 W 
 
Pintail Duck 
19.0 N 
98.2 W 
*Bullock's Oriole 
9.5 N 
84.0 W 
 
21.5 N 
77.0 W 
*Marsh Hawk 
33.5 N 
98.2 W 
 
Canada Goose 
35.5 N 
105.2 W 
29.9 N 
92.9 W 
 
32.1 N 
98.4 W 
*Red-tailed Hawk 
29.8 N 
92.8 W 
 
Snow Goose 
28.5 N 
95.5 W 
28.5 N 
95.5 W 
 
25.4 N 
105 W 
*Burrowing Owl 
29.1 N 
97.1 W 
 
Wood Duck 
29.2 N 
98.4 W 
32.4 N 
100.5 W 
 
31.0 N 
92.5 W 
*Blue Jay 
36.2 N 
96.4 W 
 
Yellow Warbler 
11.2 S 
75.5 W 
30.4 N 
96.4 W 
 
21.5 N 
77.0 W 
35.5 N 
97.3 W 
 
Wilson's Phalarope 
52.0 S 
60.0 W 
*Harris' Sparrow 
32.1 N 
98.4 W 
 
41.0 S 
68.5 W 
35.0 N 
98.2 W 
 
Barn Swallow 
8.0 N 
83.0 W 
*White-throated Sparrow 
32.5 N 
93.5 W 
 
41.0 S 
66.4 W 
30.1 N 
97.5 W 
 
Bobolink 
20.4 S 
50.0 W 
*Chipping Sparrow 
35.5 N 
105.2 W 
 
30.2 S 
61.3 W 
*Red-eyed Vireo 
10 N 
84.5 W 
 
Swainson's Hawk 
32.4 S 
65.1 W 
*Warbling Vireo 
13.4 N 
89.1 W 
 
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
25.5 N 
105 W 
*Robin 
35.4 N 
93.3 W 
 
10.0 N 
84.5 W 
33.1 N 
95.5 W 
 
Great Blue Heron 
32.2 N 
93.1 W 
35.4 N 
94.3 W 
 
3.0 N 
71.3 W 
31.1 N 
92.1 W 
 
8.0 N 
65.0 W 
Yellow-headed Blackbird 
23.5 N 
103 W 
 
Eastern Bluebird 
32.0 N 
93.1 W 
29.5 N 
98.2 W 
 
32.4 N 
100 W 
Red-winged Blackbird 
33.2 N 
105 W 
 
Chimney Swift 
5.0 S 
73.2 W 
32.1 N 
93.5 W 
 
1.5 S 
76.2 W 
Common Grackle 
32.5 N 
89.2 W 
 
Purple Martin 
10.0 S 
74.5 W 
32.5 N 
89.2 W 
 
17.0 S 
63.5 W 
MIGRATION DATA CHART
Species Name
Bird Size

(Body Length)

Wintering Grounds
Migration Distance
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

References


SDOU, 1991. The Birds of South Dakota. NSU Press, Aberdeen, S.D.
Terres, John, 1980. The Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Bird Banding Laboratory Records, 12100 Beach Forest Road, Laurel, Maryland
20708-4037.

Selected Resources For Teachers

A Guide to the Field Identification of Birds of North America by Robbins, Bruun, Zim and Singer, 1983, Golden Press,
New York.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America published by the National Geographic Society, 1983.
Migratory Songbird Conservation , a 27-page brochure on migratory bird from Nongame Bird Coordinator, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486-DFC, Denver, CO 80225.
Peterson Field Guides, Eastern Birds and Western Birds by Roger Tory Peterson, 1990, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston
MA.
The Birds of South Dakota, a reference book with distribution and migratory dates for all South Dakota birds. 1991. SDOU,
NSU Press, Aberdeen, SD 57401.

Written by:
Dr. Erika Tallman, Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD 57401.

Reviewed by:
Dr. David Swanson, Biology Department, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD 57069.

Publication of the Where Have The Birds Gone? fact sheet was funded by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and
Parks, Division of Wildlife, Pierre, SD.