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Mississippi Flyway
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Bird migration between breeding grounds and winter quarters in the Western Hemisphere generally takes place along north-south routes through broad geographical areas called "flyways". The four major North American lanes—the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific flyways—conform to significant topographical features, including the coasts, mountain ranges and principal river valleys.

The Mississippi Flyway is the longest flyway, stretching more than 3000 miles from the arctic coast of Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico. The two rivers that define it, the Mackenzie in Canada and the Mississippi in the United States, both have a north-south orientation, contributing natural definition to this artery. The eastern boundary of the flyway is fairly distinct, running through the peninsula of southern Ontario to western Lake Erie, then southwestward across Ohio and Indiana to the Mississippi River where it follows the river to the Gulf of Mexico. The western boundary in Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas is less clear and frequently merges with the Central Flyway.

The entire flyway is uninterrupted by mountains or significant ridges, and timber and water are plentiful, making it a significant route for large numbers of songbirds, ducks, geese, and shorebirds. Millions of waterfowl and other birds traverse the Mississippi Flyway in spring and fall, the majority taking a short cut across the Gulf of Mexico rather than the longer, but perhaps safer, land routes through Texas or the Antilles islands in the Caribbean.

Effigy Mounds
Two ancient Woodland Indian effigy mounds embellish the landscape near Washburn Observatory, on the grounds of University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the foreground is a water spirit mound, its bilateral shape delineated by melting snow. A bird mound lies between the telephone pole and tree, facing away from the viewer. Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID 5569.
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On the eastern edge of the Mississippi Flyway, on bluffs that line the borders of Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, and northern Iowa, ancient effigy mounds in shapes of birds emerge from the hilly landscape. Expressions of the spiritual cosmology of Late Woodland Indian tribal groups, the mounds are located along the same pathway through which birds reappear in North America each spring, heralding the season of rebirth and renewal.

Cabinet, by Martha Glowacki
Martha Glowacki, Starry Transit, 2004, wood, glass, brass, copper, bird carcasses, paper, pigments.
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Encompassing artistic interpretation of historical scientific tools and models, MMoCA's exhibition Starry Transit: An Installation by Martha Glowacki, permits visitors to Washburn Observatory to simulate processes of research and discovery about bird migratory navigation by constellations.