A Letterbox at the Milwaukee County Zoo
An easy hike that is good for kids and families
Admission fees for the zoo will be required.
As of June 30, 2008, Flute is Back!!!
Migration is a perilous behavior for all songbirds. It requires tremendous amounts of energy and places the birds under a constant risk of predation and other dangers. Migration is made even more difficult by certain human behaviors, such as clearing forests for development, misuse of chemical pesticides, or allowing housecats free access to hunt outdoors. However, humans can also help protect migratory songbirds in a number of ways, for example by using natural landscaping, using chemical fertilizers and pesticides only when necessary, keeping cats indoors during bird nesting seasons, and supporting environmental education and conservation programs.
This letterbox is based on the picture book by the same name, authored by Lynne Cherry. We highly recommend the book to children of all ages. It is the story of Flute, a young wood thrush, who is born in the Belt Woods of Maryland. The story follows Flute for one year, as he migrates south to the Children’s Eternal Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, and back again to the Belt Woods the following spring.
In our story, Flute’s journeys through the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wauwatosa, WI. We’ll begin at the entrance to the zoo, where Flute is checking the gardens for any ripe berries or insects he can eat to store up energy for his trip. From here, Flute heads into the zoo and veers off toward the Carousel and the 1) _ _ _ _ _ _ Train Station. “Wow,” Flute muses as he watches these rides go around, “they both make a roundtrip journey, just like my migration from Wisconsin to Belize and back each year!”
Flute continues past the carousel, crosses the train tracks at a safe crossing, and enters the Family Farm area. Just past the Dairy Store, Flute stops in the covered picnic shelter to read up on becoming a “Tree Detective.” He learns that the leaves on walnut trees have eleven 2) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and that there are bundles of five needles on the branches of a white 3) _ _ _ _ tree. After foraging for a bit in Heritage Garden, he stops again to read up on becoming a Water Pollution 4) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. Clean water is awfully important, even for a wood thrush.
Ready for a short rest, Flute flies up the steep path and perches on the solar panel. He admires the view of the farm and the children playing on the playground. Green spaces such as this one provide important habitat for migratory birds that spend their summers in cities like Milwaukee. Continuing down the hill, he comes to a display that is the summertime home of hundreds of honey bees. Bees are good friends, because they help to pollinate the fruits and berries Flute depends on for food. At the display, Flute learns that honey bees fly using twice as many 5) _ _ _ _ _ as he has.
Now Flute heads to the right (north) and exits the Family Farm behind the Raptory Theater. Ahead, he notices a Bongo – not an animal he usually sees on his migratory path! He learns from the sign near the hut that the mountain subspecies is on the verge of 6) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. He wonders if wood thrushes may someday face the same threat, as more and more of their habitat is cut down for development. Migratory birds depend on having safe, high quality habitats in their summer home, their winter home, and in the path they follow during migration. Wood thrushes are still relatively common, but their populations have declined by 43% since 1966.
He continues to the right past several types of antelopes. He shivers and rushes past the entrance to the Big Cat Country. A small housecat is dangerous enough to a songbird like Flute -- scientists estimate that rural housecats kill 20 to 150 million migratory songbirds like Flute in Wisconsin each year! Yikes!! When he comes to the Waterhole Wisdom signs, he learns that the antelope he has been observing have 7) _ _ _ _ _, not antlers like the white tailed deer he sees in Wisconsin forests.
Next, Flute comes to the South American yard. He finds some animals like the ones he sees in the forests in Belize, although other animals in this exhibit only occur further south. He keeps a wary eye on the 8) _ _ _ _ _ _ in the distance. Even though they prefer to eat tapirs and other large animals, they might like to snack on a wood thrush if given the chance. Flute flies up and notices people getting a “bird’s eye view” of the zoo and follows the ride down to its turn around point. From here, he heads west and finds some familiar North American mammal friends like moose and mule 9) _ _ _ _. He’s never migrated far enough north to encounter polar bears like the ones off to his right, though. In the exhibit with the moose, Flute chats briefly with a bird that was once considered to be a candidate for the national emblem of the United States (a 10) _ _ _ _ _ _).
This trip around the zoo is wearing Flute out a bit. Luckily, up ahead he spots Lake Evinrude where he can take a cool drink of water. At the south end of the lake, Flute explores the Birds without Borders/Aves sin Fronteras boardwalk and observation platform. Birds without Borders is an exciting research program designed to gain more information about the lives of migratory birds like Flute. Researchers in this program study birds at sites in both 11) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and 12) _ _ _ _ _ _. One hundred and fourteen species of migratory songbirds occur in both of these locations. Hopefully, the work of the researchers will help to protect these species for years to come.
Flute heads out to the observation platform to rest and decipher the cryptogram code.
1) _ _ _ _ _ _ YMCMIR
2) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ FBMCFBXY
3) _ _ _ _ GRVB
4) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ABXBOXRJB
5) _ _ _ _ _ KRVPY
6) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ BLXRVOXRZV
7) _ _ _ _ _ QZIVY
8) _ _ _ _ _ _ DMPWMI
9) _ _ _ _ ABBI
10) _ _ _ _ _ _ XWIEBT
11) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ KRYOZVYRV
12) _ _ _ _ _ _ NBFRSB
XQB FBXXBINZL RY DWYX YZWXQKBYX ZC XQB NZMIAKMFE
BVXIMVOB. FZZE NBQRVA XQB XIBB XQMX PIZKY FZK XZ XQB
PIZWVA MVA GZRVXY XZKMIA XQB NIZKV NBMIY.
When you find the letterbox, remember to be quiet and discreet so as not to reveal Flute’s resting place to other zoo-goers. Please be sure his nest is well hidden after you’ve stamped in.
Learn more about bird migration:
Cherry, Lynne. Flute’s Journey: The life of a woodthrush. Harcourt, Inc. New York. http://www.lynnecherry.com/work5.htm
Audubon Society. Audubon Watchlist 2002: An early warning system for bird conservation. http://www.audubon.org/bird/watchlist/
Birds Without Borders/Aves sin Fronteras. Milwaukee County Zoological Society. http://www.zoosociety.org/Conservation/BWB-ASF/
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. All About Birds: Wood Thrush. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Wood_Thrush.html#conservation
US Fish and Wildlife Service. Migratory Songbird Conservation: http://library.fws.gov/Bird_Publications/songbrd.html