Animals That Migrate

There are lots of different reasons as to why certain animals migrate, and it is really fascinating to look into. In most cases, animals migrate in the search of food and water, new territories, mating and to escape harsh weather. 

Animals That Migrate

Some animals will migrate very small distances, while some will travel very long distances, as far as 40,000 miles! 

This article will explore some of the animals that migrate and their migration patterns. Read on for more information on animals that migrate!

What Is Migration?

Many animals migrate. This  is when they move from place to place. Often, this occurs on a cycle, often an annual cycle.

This means that the animal will leave one habitat, move on to another, and then return to the original habitat. This type of occurrence is known as migration.

Why Do Animals Migrate?

There are lots of different reasons why animals migrate. 

For some, migration is simply something that is ingrained in them. Certain migratory birds become restless during migration season.

If they are kept in captivity they show this restless behavior when they sense a change in season. These birds don’t need to migrate, they just sense that it is time to move on.

A lot of animals migrate because of a weather change, so they move on to escape harsh weather conditions. In some cases, the migration occurs because of food or water or in order to find mates.

Animals That Migrate 

Bar-Tailed Godwit

The bar-tailed godwit has one of the most interesting migration patterns in the animal kingdom.

In the summer months, this bird spends its time in the Arctic breeding grounds. When the winter comes, the bird migrates South. It travels from the Arctic to New Zealand or Australia! 

This is an incredible distance. The distance between these two places is around 7,500 miles! It makes this incredible journey in as little as 11 days. This bird flies non-stop during this time and it does not even stop to feed. 

For this reason, this incredible bird holds the record for the longest non-stop flight made by a bird, as well as the longest journey of any animal without stopping for food!

Snow Goose 

The snow goose is another species that has a very clear migration pattern. This species is usually seen covered in white feathers with black wing tips.

These animals breed in the arctic during the summer and migrate to the United States in the winter months.


The caribou holds the record for the longest known land migration in the animal kingdom. This animal is a large deer, which is most commonly known as a reindeer(see also: Animals That Look Like Deer). Caribou live in the arctic.

These animals migrate between their winter location and their calving grounds. They give birth in the areas very far north where there are very few predators.

This area is very inhospitable during the winter months so during this time they migrate south to find less harsh weather conditions. Caribou travel up to 3000 miles every year.

Gray Whale 

The gray whale has been recorded as making the longest water migration in the animal kingdom. This is a very difficult thing to measure because the migrations happen out at sea where it is very difficult to study them. 

However, in 2015, one whale swam from the coast of Siberia all the way down to Mexico. It then turned around and went back again. This whale is thought to have done this in search of food. 

This migration was over 13,000 miles in distance! This is one that was tracked, however, unless the whales come close to shore, it is very difficult for scientists to attain an accurate depiction of the migration patterns of these animals. It is believed that some could be even longer than this!

Humpback Whale 

The humpback whale is also known for its migration patterns. The humpback whales feed off krill and smaller fish that are found in the seawater as they don’t have any teeth. They filter these fish through their gills. 

The humpback whales are found in all of the oceans around the world, and they are one of the marine mammals that have a migration pattern.

The different populations of humpback whales across the world have different migration patterns. The whales are likely to spend their summers near the poles and then migrate nearer to the equator in the winter. 

One group of these whales have been tracked as having migrated from Antarctica to the Pacific coast. This is around 5200 miles, which is one of the largest known mammal migrations in the world.

Animals That Migrate


Pronghorn are thought to be the fastest land animal in the US. They migrate a very long distance across America. They are very fast, and they can maintain a very high speed for a very long time. 

These animals begin their migration journey in the Spring, when they travel North along the Green River valley in Wyoming.

They travel along the river systems, finally reaching their migration destination. This is in the Grand Teton National Park.

They travel 150 miles away from their original destination and they pick up more pronghorns, and other animals, on the way.

By the end of their journey they are traveling in packs of around 250,000!


There are 300 species of the hummingbird. Only a few of these species actually migrate. The hummingbirds in North America migrate seasonally between the northern breeding grounds and the summer wintering grounds. 

Interestingly, these tiny birds migrate individually rather than in a flock. They travel during the day and they rest during the night.

Canada Goose 

In North America, you will find the Canada goose all over. It is seen in public areas, parks and near water. This goose has a black neck, white cheeks and gray wings.

These geese leave North America, flying South in the Winter to Mexico or Southern US. They then migrate up to Canada in the summer. 

Due to temperate weather, this species seems to be migrating less and less. There are now quite a lot of Canadian geese that live on the East Coast of America and no longer migrate up to Canada or down to Mexico. 

Lots of scientists believe that this is because the geese have become used to living in cities. They feel safe from predators and they don’t feel the need to migrate.

Geese are also commonly found in the UK and Northern Europe after they were introduced to these areas from North America.

In the UK these birds don’t migrate, instead staying in parks and similar places. However, birds in Northern Europe do tend to migrate.

Great White Shark 

The great white shark is another species that is known to migrate along with the seasons. In the winter months, the great white sharks are often seen in coastal areas, such as California. Here, they feed on seals. In the summer, they may travel very far out to sea. 

It is not known exactly why these sharks migrate, but scientists think that it is because they are searching for prey or congregating at certain points to breed.

Galapagos Tortoise

The Galapogos tortoise is a very slow animal, and so you don’t think of it as migrating. However, these animals do have an annual migration.

This is evident in Santa Cruz where the animals head to the coast during the rainy season because there is plenty for them to eat there. 

When the vegetation dries up, they migrate up into the highlands where the plants thrive on the moisture in the air.

These animals do this annually and while it is not too far for humans, it is a very long and hard journey for the tortoise. It is around 10 km. 

As it is a very difficult journey, not all of them migrate. The smaller tortoises are able to stay at sea level because there is enough food for them there. The larger tortoises have to migrate in order to find enough food.

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies have migration patterns. They spend the winter months in Mexico, and then they fly North to California and Maine in the summer in order to feed their young. 

These animals are on the hunt for milkweed which provides caterpillars with everything they need from nutrients to energy. The milkweed also contains the chemicals that make caterpillars poisonous to predators. 

When these caterpillars emerge as butterflies, they will fly back to Mexico again for the winter.

However, as these butterflies only live for a few weeks, it is multiple generations of monarch butterflies that make this journey. They will breed and lay eggs as they travel.

There are huge differences between late-season butterflies and warm-season butterflies.

Final Thoughts 

This article looks at some of the different animals that migrate. This article by no means scratches the surface of all of the animals in the animal kingdom that migrate, but it details some of the most interesting migration patterns out there.

Olivia Kepner