Find food, water and shelter, escape predators and procreate - these are some of the reasons animals migrate. It is a way to adapt to imperfect habitats and find mates. How these migratory animals find their way across thousands of miles is as varied as the animals themselves.
Some like mallards or loggerhead turtles are genetically programmed. Mallards know to continue in a northerly direction by using the stars. Loggerhead turtles upon hatching can sense the direction and strength of Earth’s magnetic field. The turtles use this ability for navigation while migrating. Land features are another form of directional input for migrating animals. Even marine animals, like dolphins, use the shape of the ocean floor to migrate.
The amazement doesn’t stop there when comparing migrating animals. There are individual species that take the gold for going the furthest, highest, and fastest. For instance, the Arctic tern migrates further than any other bird, traveling over 44,000 miles each year. Then there is the wandering glider, an insect that can fly over 4,000 miles without landing or stopping!
The “smartest” animals are those who live in summer all year round. The sooty shearwater is one of those. It travels between Greenland and Antartica so that it can bask in the summer sun all year long. Discover if you can name all of the migratory animals. Take the quiz now.
The Canada goose population has increased greatly since 1966. These flighty friends make their travel southward once per year, usually overtaking parks and other public town areas. The Canada goose is known for its agnostic behavior.
The Arctic tern migrates further than any other bird; it will travel over 44,000 miles once a year in search of better weather. It travels between Greenland and Antartica every year, so it lives in summer all year round. That's a long journey!
This entirely massive, ancient sailor of the sea can weigh up to 79,000 pounds! Did you know they travel all the way from Alaska to Hawaii? They can swim for almost eight weeks nonstop.
The Monarch butterfly flitters across much of North America to Mexico for the winter, where it can relax in the sun. They deserve the rest, since this is a 3,000-mile journey!
These sea birds live in New Zealand and Australia for part of the year, then fly to North America and Europe for the summer. They breed in mass congregations of up to 1 million birds!
Often referred to as globe skimmers, this insect is also known by its scientific name, 'Pantala flavescens'. Its flight span ability is amazing; it can fly over 4,000 miles without landing or stopping!
Chinook salmon are unique from other migration animals in that they only spawn once, then die. They truly embody the circle of life, since an adult will return to the freshwater where it was born to spawn, then die.
These cute, medium-sized penguins look different from other types of penguins because of the white ring around their eyes. They are strong swimmers, and can swim for over 100 miles with little food.
This species of wildebeest, also called gnus, is a black wildebeest or white-tailed gnu. You can pronounce is two ways: 'new' or 'g-nu'. It lives in southern and eastern Africa and is locally known as 'wildebeest', which means 'wild beast'.
This crab lives on Christmas Island and on the Coco Islands. If you don't like crabs, don't go here, since there's tens of millions of crabs here!
These birds are fair-weather friends, and go south for the winter when the weather up north gets cold. They work for their vacation, as their trip is a nonstop 2,000 mile flight!
Did you know this animal is at risk because of it being poached for its tusks? The African elephant has impressive, ivory tusks that weigh about 200 pounds!
Because of the brutal hunting of the buffalo in the 1800s, it does not migrate the same as it used to. However the buffalo still will migrate to areas where humans are scarce in the Great Plains.
This frightening-looking shark can be up to 32 feet long! They are called basking sharks because they bask, or float along the surface of the water, so only their dorsal fin sticks out for above-water viewers to see.
This pretty bird lives along the coast in areas of southeast Asia and northeast Africa. It travels to Alaska and Siberia in the summer months.
Although a migration is usually assumed to be for moving to warmer climates, some animals move because they would rather be in cooler temperatures. The blue shark is one of these cooler weather seeking creatures. It moves all the way down the Atlantic Ocean, between the northeastern coast of the United States to northern South America.
The bull shark lives up to its name by being one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. Unfortunately for humans and this hunter's prey, it lives in shallow, coastal waters, and can even survive in freshwater.
Of all the world's large animals, the caribou has one of the longest migrations. It will travel about 600 miles each way of its migration!
This bird could have been inspired by the gel, spiked hair of the '90s. This bird is sometimes taken as a pet. Beware; it is known to be needy and can throw temper tantrums!
Can you believe a creature can be so large and have no teeth to munch and crunch on nutrients? That's right, the bowhead whale has no teeth! Instead, they use their mouth as a vacuum, keeping it open constantly while swimming and swallowing small creatures such as shrimp.
This whale can be distinguished by its rounded head and extra-large forehead. If it were a human female, we'd suggest it get bangs! Some populations of belugas travel over 3,000 miles in the fall when they migrate south.
The elephant's migration pattern is not always the same; it varies from year to year depending on weather. Why does it depend on weather? These giant creatures need a lot of food each day to survive, so if there is a prolonged dry season, they'll need to move to get more grub!
As its name suggests, this shark lives in the waters around Greenland, and also northern Canada and Iceland. Did you know one of these sharks is over 500 years old, and hasn't been found by scientists yet?
Dolphins do not migrate as far distances as other animals similar to it, such as the whale. Did you know that dolphins never fully fall asleep? They let one part of their brain sleep at a time, since they can't go for too long without coming to surface for air.
When most birds migrate, we see them flying in flocks, however the hummingbird prefers to travel solo. It is one of the few birds that migrates individually, rather than with a friend or group.
This duck is known for making its home in ponds and other wetlands. The male has a emerald green head, with striking white, gray and brown body markings.
This birdy has quite the voice! It sings with a compelling and strong chirp, and belts out a human-song like melody. The nightingale in England travels all the way to Africa for the winter!
Don't get the snow goose confused with a swan, since they both are white! The snow goose is smaller than the swan, and lives further north. When spring begins, this goose will fly to the Arctic tundra to live.
Did you know the bluefin tuna migrates two times each year? One is for feeding, and the other for spawning.
To see this bird, you'll have to adventure through the rainforests of Central and South America. Of all the perching birds in South America, the umbrella bird is the largest! This is specifically the bare-necked umbrella bird, which is endangered and found in Costa Rica and Panama. They can grow to between 16 - 14 inches!
This subspecies of zebra got its name from William John Burchell, a British explorer. Most of this zebra's population lives in Kenya and Tanzania.
As the baseball team name suggests, the oriole lives part of the year in Baltimore, Maryland. During the cold weather, it travels all the way to Central America!
Did you know the sea turtle is one of the oldest creatures on Earth? Its facial expression even looks full of ancient wisdom!
This sea cow is a heavy, massive animal that can weigh up to 1,200 pounds. The manatee will travel to warmer waters if the water temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ladybugs migrate out of necessity, since they cannot fly if the temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some groups of ladybugs in California migrate to the Central Valley farm fields, where they have temperatures high enough to fly in!
If you hear a shark by the name of blue pointer or bonito shark, know that this is the mako shark. Whatever name you call it by, this shark can get ginormous. One was caught that weighed 1,000 pounds!
Did you know there's about 500,000 reindeer in the western arctic herd? That's a lot of reindeer to get run over by! Some reindeer travel over 3,100 miles per year!
Have you ever been swimming in cold water and had your head get cold? The swordfish will never have this problem, since they have heating organs next to their eyes and brain! These sea creatures swim to warmer waters, the Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone, during the winter months.
Unlike most bats, the red bat has a rusty red color with white tips to their fur. How can you tell a female from a male? Females usually have more white in their fur.
This cute black and white bird can be found soaking up the sun in the southern inner part of South America. Some people think of this bird's coloring as if it's wearing a tuxedo backward!
Most think of migrating as moving across land, but the earthworm has a different take on their migratory pattern. They move down into the earth during the winter! They go below the frost line and wait for spring to melt away the ice, when they come back up again.
Most dogfish sharks make their migration route along the northeastern coast of the U.S. each year. However, some more adventurous sharks have been found all the way in Iceland after having been tagged in Newfoundland!
These whales are large creatures; they can get up to 45 feet long! Like other types of whales, they migrate once a year to warmer climates for breeding.
These whales migrate once a year, and do so to give birth! They'll go to the Pacific Ocean's tropical waters to breed, then come back to their original homes in the spring.
This pretty, neutral-colored bird travels far south for winter. It lives in North America and Asia in the warmer months, and travels all the way to South America and Oceania in the winter.
Since movement is the topic, check out the dragonfly's cool moving tricks. It can fly backward! Did you know the head of this incredible insect is all eyes?
Yes, these beautiful, dangerous creatures do migrate! They follow sunlight, and are even thought to be pulled by earth's magnetic field, just like salmon.
Did you know walruses sometimes migrate by taking a ride on sea ice? What an energy-saving way to travel! They also swim to migrate, and will go for almost 2,000 miles!
The white ibis is in the ibis and spoonbill family, and it migrates from the northern U.S. to Florida, Mexico, Cuba and other surrounding areas during the cold months.
Did you know this bird's red crown is actually their skin, not feathers? The red crowned crane is also called the Japanese crane, and it is one of the least frequently seen types of cranes in the world.