Flute’s Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry

"Flute's Journey - The life of a wood thrush" book cover. Written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry

Topic: Migration


Through her rich text, accurate description, and beautiful illustrations, Lynn Cherry portrays the life of a young Wood Thrush named Flute and the challenges he endures during his first migration. We follow Flute as he flies thousands of miles – 600 of them non-stop over the Gulf of Mexico – from his first home in Belt Woods,Maryland, to his winter habitat in Costa Rica, and back again to Belt Woods to breed and raise a family. During his arduous journey, Flute encounters many hazards, some natural, and others man-made.

This story is a convincingly realistic tale about the real perils – from habitat loss to pesticide use, outdoor cats to natural predators – which are faced by birds every time they migrate. It is also the story of hope, possibility, and the power children have to make a positive difference for migratory birds by reducing the dangers they face.

You can find this book on Amazon!

Activity 1:  Taking Flight – Flying and Migration

Explore migration with the third lesson in our Feathered Friends resource (available as a free download). In this lesson, students explore the concept of migration. They learn how birds migrate and some of the hazards birds face in doing so.

Activity 2:  Watch Cornell University Naturalist Outreach’s Bird Migration video

Lead students in a discussion of the facts learned from the video. List these on the board. Ask,

“How does Lynne Cherry represent these scientific facts about bird migration in the book, Flute’s Journey?”

Read the book again slowly, asking students to listen and find in the story where and how these scientific facts are depicted. Then add the plot points from the book where they correspond to the facts learned from the video.

For example:

Facts about bird migration

  • Changing temperatures and shortening days are signals for birds to migrate

Plot points in Flute’s Journey     

  • “September came and a cool breeze ruffled Flute’s feathers.”
  • “The shorter days and the dwindling light gave the birds the urge for going.”                  

Activity 3: Follow Flute’s journey from Maryland to Costa Rica and back again!

After reading the book aloud to your class just for pleasure, go back and read it with purpose. Have a map of North and South America (either a poster or an image from the Internet) displayed so students can see it. As you read and the names of places that are mentioned, have a student mark or indicate that place in some way (using a sticky note or marker) on the map. You can connect the places with yarn to show the route taken by Flute and include the amount of time that passed between stops along the way.

Activity 4: What’s in a Habitat?

Explore the concept of habitat using the Feathered Friends resource. Complete the first activity of the second lesson, What’s in a Habitat?. In this lesson, students learn that a good habitat must provide food, water, cover, and space.

Activity 5: Habitat Helpers

Early during Flute’s first migration to Costa Rica, he encounters trouble. Go back and re-read that part of the story to your students (page 9). Ask,

  • What problem was Flute having? (Where there had once been forest [a habitat in which he could find food, water, and cover], he found only paved roads and suburban development.)
  • How is he helped? (By the schoolyard habitat improvements made by some school children wanting to help migratory birds.)
  • What improvement did children make? (They planted a spicebush grove around their school.)

Again, using What’s in a Habitat? from the Feathered Friends resource, take students on a walk around their schoolyard to evaluate if it has everything birds need. Are there places for birds to find food? Cover? Water? If not, what can students do or add to make it a better place for birds? Children can begin to make a plan to improve their schoolyard.

Activity 6: Understanding Migration

Discuss with students why they think birds migrate. (No matter what ideas they come up with, make sure they understand that it is to find food.) Ask if they think all birds migrate. (Explain that birds that can survive on the food available all winter long – usually, plants, seeds, etc. – are able to stay in one place all year long. The birds that eat insects, fish, and other foods that are not available in the winter, need to migrate to somewhere they can find food.)

Use the eBird Occurrence Maps  to show the difference between certain species of birds’ distribution. (The Northern Cardinal, a year-round resident in the east, and Lesser Goldfinch, year-round resident in the west, do not migrate. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a long-distance migrant. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks fly from North American breeding grounds to Central and South America. Most of them fly across the Gulf of Mexico in a single night, although some migrate over land around the Gulf. Show each bird species’ occurrence map and discuss what the maps mean and how they show each species migration patterns. You can also find the Wood Thrush occurrence map here.)

With older students, once they demonstrate comprehension of the eBird Occurrence Maps with their ability to discuss what they see, choose a couple species’ maps that are notably different. Then write a description of the migration pattern of the bird. (You can find these descriptions in the information below the Occurrence Maps. You can also find migration information for each species on our All About Birds online bird guide, in the Life History section, under the Range maps). Write a description of the bird species’ migration that students can understand without including the species’ name. Then, let students work together to determine which species the occurrence map describes.

For example:

White-throated Sparrow – This is a short to medium-distance migrant. One of the most common birds in the East during the winter, they breed widely across the northern boreal forest. They then migrate south in October. Most birds winter south of their breeding range, in the Southeast and Midwest of the United States and return north in April and May.

Additional Resources:

  • The Lab’s resource, How to Attract Birds to Your Yard, on the All About Birds website offers tips, tricks and other useful information on attracting birds to your schoolyard as well as how to deal with problem species such as European Starlings and Canada Geese.
  • The Gardening section on the Celebrate Urban Birds website provides basic tips on attracting birds to your yard.
  • Explore habitats and migration even further with Nature Detectives or Habitat Connections. These kits provide great background and activities to allow you to guide youth in making observations about the natural world and participating in citizen science!

Find Flute’s Journey: The Life of a Wood Thrush on Amazon.