Dickcissel Night Flights | Home | 2005 Challenge Award

The winner of the 2005 Dickcissel Challenge Award


The Musical Weirdos

(Emily Ratliff & Angelica Reyes)

of La Feria High School, La Feria, Texas


Honorable mention

Birds of a Feather from Donna High School, Donna, TX


The Rockin' Eagles from Mission High School, Mission, TX


This first of a kind challenge award was offered to students at 35 high schools in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The contest involved teams of students using past and present data from Old Bird's Dickcissel night flight call monitoring study to predict the number of Dickcissel flight calls that were detected by a skyward-facing microphone on top of the Science Academy of South Texas in spring 2004. Teams submitted their estimated total and a written report discussing their rationale for determining their total.


17 teams registered for the competition


The total number of Dickcissel night flight calls detected by the automated recording system on top of the Science Academy of South Texas was:




The totals submitted by the student teams ranged from 549 to 1928. The competition was based 50% on the accuracy in the estimated Dickcissel totals and 50% on the thoughtfulness and creativity of their written reports. The top three team totals and reports are listed below


Team (high school) Teacher Dickcissel call estimate written report
Musical Weirdos (La Feria High School)        Mr. Bill Crane 766 report
Birds of a Feather (Donna High School) Ms. Maricela Ramirez



Rockin' Eagles (Mission High School) Mr. Sam Casarez 549


* note, all reports are in Adobe pdf format. If your computer does not have an Adobe reader, you may download one here.


Judge's comments

Thanks to all the student teams who participated! While some of the estimated totals were far off, all the written reports revealed interesting perspectives. Given the difficulties in quantifying bird migration, the estimated totals by the three top teams noted above are remarkable. Birds of a Feather technically had the closest estimate of 550, only 83 Dickcissels off the actual total of 633. But the 549 estimate of the Rockin' Eagles was just one behind, only 84 Dickcissels off the actual total. The Musical Weirdos had the third closest estimate of 766, which was 133 off the actual total, but their written report was superior to all the others and tipped the scale in their favor. Notably, they incorporated a unique and credible weather analysis to conclude why spring 2004 should have been a good year for Dickcissel flight call detection in the Rio Grande Valley. They then performed a reasonable proportional comparison with the 2004 data from Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Excellent analysis!

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