Which animals migrate?

Discover the journeys made by some of nature’s most hardened wanderers

Crab migration halts traffic

Every year 120 million crabs make the nine kilometre (six mile) trek from the heart of the island’s rainforest to the shoreline, causing extended road closures. Once they reach the beach the crabs are able to mate and release their eggs into the ocean before heading back to the forest. Only a month later, the five millimetre (0.2 inch) newly hatched crabs follow in their parents footsteps in the annual ‘red tide’ that wreaks even more havoc on the roads.

christmas island crab migration


Zebras have taken the same route for 15 000 years

The migration taken by zebras begins on the banks of the Chobe river in Namibia, where they graze throughout the dry season. Once the wet season begins they move south to Botswana taking an arrow-straight path covering more than 580 kilometres (300 miles). These zebras have been taking on this epic journey for 15 000 years, although it was halted briefly after 1968 when fences were put up as part of human settlements. When these were taken down in 2004, their migration resumed.

Zebra migration

Ibex migrate on a daily basis

Nature’s most daring climbers migrate up and down mountains according to the weather. During the warm summer this species of goat ascends the hills to graze on and when the winter chill begins to set in, groups of ibex begin to head back down the hillsides. Ibex make a daily migration too, heading up to 800 metres (2600 feet) higher than where they sleep. This starts at dawn when the groggy goats begin their climb, often scaling near-vertical dams to graze on lichen.

ibex migration


Adélie penguins head north to feed

These tiny penguins are not only the smallest penguins living in Antarctica, they migrate further than any other Antarctic animal at 17 600 kilometres (11 000 miles). They breed further south than any other penguin, and after three months of raising newborns they begin to march north. This trip requires a lot of food, so while they’re on their way they eat as much as possible. After fattening up and molting in the summer, Adélie penguins begin their journey back to their colony.

Adelie Penguin


Rays arrive in the shallows of the Atlantic in their millions

Schools of rays over two metres (six feet) across migrate 1125 kilometres (700 miles) and congregate in enormous groups to mate. These areas, such as Chesapeake bay in the USA, see millions of rays arriving almost overnight even though these rays swim at half the walking speed of a human. Rays can glide through the air, some reaching heights of 30 metres (100 feet) to speed their journeys up and reach their winter mating grounds faster.

cownose ray stingray migration

Flamingos seek greener pastures

Though they don’t all migrate, some flamingo groups fly to better pastures if their home range is under threat. Those that live in high altitude lakes may migrate to escape the frost whereas those in areas suffering from drought will seek deeper water. Flamingoes tend to fly at night for protection from predators and can cover distances of 600 kilometres (370 miles) in one night. Flocks then congregate in their new grounds and continue foraging, and participate in their iconic breeding rituals.

flamingo flying migration

Wildebeest migrate further than any other land mammal

The longest migration of any land mammal is taken by the Wildebeest of the Serengeti, that travel 3000 kilometres (1800 miles) every year. They are constantly on the move in search of grass, and the herds are made up of over a million wildebeest. After the birth of around 170 000 calves in February, herds begin their circular path of the Serengeti across plains and even through rivers. Once the annual circle is complete, wildebeest then start all over again.

wildebeest migration masai mara


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