Can you imagine packing up all your belongings and traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, only to come back a couple of months later? From whales to wildebeest, this kind of migration is part of their natural life cycle. In our ARKive Education module, Seasons in the Woods, we explore species that migrate in and out of the Wisconsin Northwoods in the United States. And since migrations are a hot topic for ARKive at the moment, we thought we’d highlight some more incredible migrations in the animal kingdom!
One of the best documented migrations is the Serengeti migration, also known as the Great Migration. Each year, close to two million wildebeest and zebras travel over 800 kilometers across the Serengeti National Park and the Mara River in pursuit of the rains. Recently, this migration has been threatened by a proposed road that would run through the Serengeti National Park, cutting right across the migration route. It was at one point thought that the Tanzanian government had cancelled plans for the highway, but recently it has come to light that they have merely agreed not to pave the segment of road that would pass through the park. Critics of the project have warned that even an unpaved road would threaten the Serengeti’s wildlife, including the predators which rely on the migrating herds.
If you have seen the movie “The March of the Penguins”, you may already know that emperor penguins wobble up to 160 kilometers inland during March in order to lay their eggs, returning to the coast after the chicks have grown large enough to swim. What you may not know is that other species of penguins travel impressive distances too. Both magellanic penguins and rockhopper penguins migrate from the Falkland Islands up the coast of South America. Amazingly, magellanic penguins can swim 1,800 kilometres in a mere 75 days!
The ruby-throated hummingbird is another bird with an incredible distance to travel each year, migrating from Central America to Canada in the spring to breed. Unfortunately, development across the United States has removed many of the species’ migration rest stops, effecting the natural patterns the hummingbirds follow.
Because of human development and the loss of natural habitat, some species have been forced to alter their traditional migration patterns, which they had followed for thousands of years. The American bison used to migrate hundreds of kilometres across the plains, but is now restricted to a few national parks and small wildlife areas.
Likewise, up and down the east coast of North America, Canada geese that used to migrate have now settled in wetlands as permanent residents. Unfortunately, by settling year-round, these geese now pose problems for the wetlands’ native species, as well as other species that travel through.
We’ve explored just a handful of species that endure fantastic annual migrations. If you are interested in learning more, why not explore the some other migratory species on ARKive, such as the Arctic tern, the species with the longest migration on earth. Or check out the pronghorn, whose historical migration route is has been carved up by highways and fences.
Do you have a favorite migratory species? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Christin Knesel, Intern, Wildscreen USA