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You're a rookie detective working your first real case: a kidnapping. A boy vacationing with his parents, in fact. They said they were heading towards the next coaster, when they turned around and couldn't find him in the crowd. At first (they recounted tearfully), they thought he was just distracted by the aviary - his favorite - and went in to search for him.

By the time they realized he was missing, it was too late. The staff joined the search, but he was nowhere to be found. It's been almost 24 hours since they last saw him. He could be anywhere!

Fortunately for you, an anonymous tip just came in. Someone claimed to have seen a kid matching his description at their local fast food joint. Unfortunately, whoever he was with sped off before the police showed up. All they found was a note scrawled on the back of a receipt for a cheeseburger and fries that matches his handwriting.

The note reads:

mockingbird
thrasher
wren
cardinal x 2
thrush?
oriole

Wha... did he think he was on a birdwatching trip?! You shake your head in disbelief.

As far as you know, the kidnappers are still on the loose and booking it. Your secretary has transportation officials on speed-dial, ready to set up a checkpoint on your command - they just need a location.

Where do you tell them to go?

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  • $\begingroup$ Fortnightly topic challenge? $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir Dec 19 '16 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir yep, I forgot to do it, but I see someone already added it to the meta post :) $\endgroup$ – user812786 Dec 19 '16 at 20:08
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I think the kidnappers are ...

... somewhere in Delaware.

Yes, that's not a very accurate description of the position. My explanation for this location is:

All of these birds are state birds of US states, namely:

mockingbird — AR, FA, MS, (SC), TN, TX
thrasher — GA
wren — SC (Carolina wren), AZ (cactus wren)
cardinal × 2 — IL, IN, KY, NC, OH, VA, WV
thrush? — DC (wood thrush), VT (hermit thrush) oriole — MD

I've used the state abbreviations here, because I first suspected that the solution was a location name formed from these letters or maybe just from the first letters of the states, but I couldn't find anything useful.

But there's another pattern: The state birds can be laid out in a path along the Atlantic coast, picking one state for each bird and two from the cardinal:

Florida — Georgia — South Carolina — North Carolina — Virginia — District of Columbia — Maryland

The next state on this path along the coast would be Delaware. This solution fits the geography tag and also the title.

There is an alternative solution, though:

The tip of the peninsula near Cape Charles is part of Virginia, so when the path follows the coast strictly, the order would be Maryland, Vriginia again, Maryland again and Delaware. But perhaps the note is just saying that the kidnappers follow a route along the Atlantic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice!!!!!!!! +1 $\endgroup$ – Techidiot Dec 20 '16 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ Correct! There is a particular route I had in mind connecting these locations which would limit the search area. But good catch on the alternative, I should have been more clear on that. A few calls to set up surveillance points, and you soon apprehend the criminals and return the boy to his family. Nice work! $\endgroup$ – user812786 Dec 20 '16 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Ah! Of course they are following an Interstate. Didn't really spot that connection, but it's obvious now. And it makes my point about the alternative pretty moot. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Dec 20 '16 at 14:07

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