8 Animals That Migrate Across the Globe

More than half of the animal kingdom’s species are always on the move. Meet eight of them here.

Oct 30, 2023By Jill Horton
animals that migrate across globe

In the animal kingdom, most living things don’t have a permanent address. Each year, some species of animals travel in search of food and shelter. Others go on perilous journeys to meet that special someone and reproduce. Here, you can meet eight of these creatures and learn all about their migratory habits!

8. Humpback Whales

humpback whales
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Believe it or not, humpback whales are some of the world’s most prolific travelers! These incredible animals have broken records for the longest migration journey among mammals. Researchers have discovered that humpback whales travel a little over 5,000 miles in one direction between summer to winter. For reference, that’s almost the same as traveling from Florida to Ukraine!

Humpback whales spend most of the year consuming around 3,000 pounds of food per day in colder climates. When it’s time for some romance, this species relocates to a warmer vacation destination.

Fun fact: Whale watching has been an organized pastime in the United States since 1950. Enthusiasts enjoy guided tours and observe these beloved giants as they migrate. Did you know that humpback whales (among other species) watch humans, too?

These marine mammals participate in an activity called “spyhopping.” Whales rise vertically out of the water and hold the pose while entertained by what people are doing on nearby boats! Needless to say, these whales like a little entertainment on their travels.

7. Sea Turtles

sea turtle
Image Credit: Karen Kayser from Unsplash

Did you know that sea turtles return to where they hatched to lay their eggs? Humans often describe scents as being nostalgic. Surprisingly, these aquatic creatures might share that sentiment! While uncertain, scientists think familiar scents, combined with geomagnetic hints, help guide the reptiles during migration.

Another surprising fact involves a seemingly impossible physical feat pulled off by hatchlings. Right after they climb out of their nest, the newborns head for water, swimming for over 24 hours at a time! The immediate migration of baby sea turtles is crucial for survival against predators.

6. Wildebeests

wildebeest serengeti great migration africa
Image Credit: Jason Hafso from Unsplash

The Serengeti is home to an epic event that is easily seen from space! The Great Migration kicks off around the time wildebeests give birth to their young, usually in January or March. Food is everywhere for the herds to enjoy during the year’s first quarter. Around late spring to early summer, however, it’s time for them to move on to greener pastures.

Over one-and-a-half million wildebeests travel from Tanzania to Kenya (and back again) during the annual migration! The perilous journey is also essential to Africa’s wildcat, crocodile, hyena, vulture, and wild dog populations. Hey, it’s not called the Great Migration for nothing!

5. Zebras

zebra herd
Image Credit: JP Desvigne from Unsplash

Zebras join wildebeests to form “super herds” during the Great Migration across the Serengeti. These equines allow wildebeests to munch on quality grass needed for survival. How? Zebras start on the journey before wildebeests each year, munching on the taller portions of grass. It’s like mowing the lawn and leaving the smaller strands for other creatures. It’s a bigger part of how zebras contribute to their environment.

These striped superstars require a lot of water to stay hydrated. By migrating to areas with better moisture concentration following the rainy season, they meet their own needs while helping their fellow grazers. It’s a win-win!

4. Geese

adult geese goslings water
Image Credit: Mario015 Medeiros from Unsplash

You might be familiar with geese migrating to warmer climates as the seasons change. But do you know what makes their journey different from other species? Unlike other birds, geese stay in one spot for as long as possible. They don’t change locations until their favorite place is absolutely depleted of food. They’re not like other birds that travel thousands of miles in a single season.

If you have ever heard a flock honking overhead and looked up, you have seen the classic “V” formation geese are known for. As they fly, these waterfowls help lift each other up using wind currents. This gives their companions a bit of rest on their journey. Plus, this method allows geese to cover a distance a little farther than Chicago, Illinois, to Chihuahua, Mexico, in around 24 hours!

3. Bats

bat colony trees
Image Credit: 2H Media from Unsplash

It’s hard to imagine a migration event dwarfing that of Serengeti’s Great Migration. Yet, there is one that rivals it. Straw-colored fruit bats blot out the sky during the last two months of the year as they overtake Kasanka National Park in Africa. This roughly 150-square-mile location is swarmed by around 10 million flying mammals in search of sweet fruit.

Other bat species migrate to more ideal geographical areas to hibernate safely in the colder months. Their flights between destinations help support the environment by distributing seeds far and wide. Those that are insectivores play a pivotal role in controlling various bug populations. Thankfully, vampire bats (yes, they are real!) are a non-migratory species.

2. Salmon

salmon run
Image Credit Brandon from Unsplash

Fish are known for swimming, not running. There is one exception, though. Every year, a massive migration occurs called a “salmon run.” No, the aquatic animals don’t participate in track and field events. During this time, adults go against the flow of water, swimming from the ocean to freshwater regions. Salmon eggs hatch in rivers and creeks. Then, the young travel to larger bodies of water to live until the next migration period.

Like sea turtles, salmon find their way back to the water sources where they were born to reproduce. Hungry bears enjoy catching their fill as the fish jump above the surface to push ahead. Without this natural phenomenon, the predators would lack essential nutrients to survive hibernation––and who knows where the salmon would spawn?

1. Snakes

venomous snake
Image Credit Meg Jerrard from Unsplash

One of the most amazing snake migrations takes place bi-annually in Illinois. Thousands of snakes from numerous different species reside in Shawnee National Forest. The reptiles and their amphibian friends travel from LaRue Swamp to the limestone bluffs. Snake Road (or Forest Service Road No. 345) is closed to traffic, allowing safe passage for migrating animals. Those brave enough to walk the nearly three-mile-long corridor are free to do so.

But why do these animals take the trip? These cold-blooded reptiles rely on heat sources from their environment to survive. So, in the spring, they take a trip in search of warmth. Then, come fall when it’s colder, they migrate back to where they started.

Not to worry! Many of the snakes that take this trek are not dangerous. Some might be the smallest snakes you’ve ever seen!

Jill Horton
By Jill Horton

Jill is a rescue animal advocate and volunteer at Free to Live Animal Sanctuary. Her social media posts contain adoptable dogs and cats from there. Dogs Lucius and Colossus, cats Moses and Maximus, and four parakeets keep her on her toes at home. If you need help finding Jill, check her writing cave. She is likely typing away on her newest article or animal-themed children's book.