Animal Migration Facts



  • Migration is when animals move from one place to another to avoid the cold or to find food and water.
  • Some migrations are daily, some are seasonal, and some are permanent.
  • Starlings migrate every day from the country to their roosts in towns and cities.
  • Many birds, whales seals and bats migrate closer to the tropics in the autumn to escape the winter cold.
  • One knot (a kind of small bird) took just 8 days to fly 5,600 km, from Britain to West Africa.
  • Barheaded geese migrate right over the top of the Himalayan mountains, flying as high as 8,000 m.
  • Migrating birds are often brilliant navigators. Bristle-thighed curlews find their way from Alaska to tiny islands in the Pacific 9,000 km away.
  • Shearwaters, sparrows and homing pigeons are able to fly home when released by scientists in strange places, thousands of kilometres away.
  • The Arctic tern is the greatest migrator, flying 30,000 km from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again each year.
  • Monarch butterflies migrate 4,000 km every year, from North America to small clumps of trees in Mexico. Remarkably, the migrating butterflies have never made the journey before.
  • No other creature migrates so far every year as the Arctic tern. It breeds in the short Arctic summer, then flies halfway around the world to spend another summer in Antarctica.
  • In summer, moose spend most of the time alone. lin winter they gather and trample areas of snow (called yai to help each other get at the grass bole,
  • Migration is the journey made twice a year between a summer breeding area, where food is plentiful, and a wintering area with a good climate.
  • Many migrating birds have to build up fat stores to allow them to fly non-stop for many days without food.
  • A migrating bird can fly across the Sahara Desert in 50-60 hours without stopping to ‘refuel’.
  • Birds find their way by observing landmarks, the patterns of stars and the position of the setting sun. They also use their sense of smell and monitor the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • Most birds that migrate long distances fly at night.
  • The snow goose migrates nearly 5000 km south from Arctic Canada at an altitude of 9000 m.
  • Before migration was studied, some people thought swallows simply spent the winter asleep in mud.
  • Even flightless birds migrate. Emus make journeys on foot of 500 km or more, and penguins migrate in water.
  • Every year at least 5 billion birds migrate from North to Central and South America.
  • The Arctic tern spends the northern summer in the Arctic and migrates to the Antarctic for the southern summer, enjoying 24 hours of daylight in both places.
  • Florida manatees usually migrate south in winter, but recently they have moved instead into the warm water outlets of hydroelectric generating plants.
  • Hooded seals usually migrate south from Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean, but in 1990 one seal ended up off California in the Pacific, having taken a wrong turn.
  • Migrating noctule bats established themselves in Hawaii, after being blown 3000 km off course.
  • Migrating whales travel immense distances with the aid of their internal magnetic navigation.
  • Oil pipe-lines are serious obstacles to caribou, which follow traditional migratory routes every year.
  • Migrating European noctule bats fly at high altitude, emitting loud, low frequency sounds at one second intervals to keep in ground contact.
  • American grey squirrels sometimes travel in their thousands, crossing roads, rivers and towns in their search for food.
  • Beluga whales return to the estuaries where they were born to give birth.
  • Over 1 million wildebeest take part in a circular seasonal migration in east Africa’s Serengeti region. Each year, grey whales migrate 20,000 km in all, going to and from their breeding grounds.