Connecting Children and Nature
It’s Autumn! For many animals that means it’s time to move. Cooler temperatures and shorter days signal animals to begin their fall migration—often a risky, tortuous journey! Why do they do it? Quite simply, it’s because they need to satisfy their basic needs–finding food, raising young, and having a safe place to live. Meet these amazing migrators:
Monarch Butterflies—In the fall, monarchs migrate from the northern U.S. and Canada to warmer weather in Mexico and the coast of California. It may take four generations to make one round trip, up to 6,000 miles. And the monarchs migrating right now may be the great-grandchildren or even the great-great-grandchildren of the monarchs that made the trip last year. One of nature’s mysteries!
Arctic Tern—A bird that weighs less than 4 ounces makes the longest migration in the animal kingdom—up to 50,000 miles, traveling roundtrip between the Arctic and Greenland to Antarctica. That’s from one end of the world to the other! This bird experiences more sunlight during a calendar year than any other creature on Earth, spending summers in the far north and winters in the far south.
Gray Whale— September is the final month for gray whales to feed in the Arctic to build up stores of blubber. Come October, they will begin their southward migration, ending in warm waters of Mexico where they will have their babies. The Gray Whale holds the record for longest migration by a mammal—up to 14,000 miles roundtrip.
Caribou— Herds of up to 100,000 caribou move south in the fall, from the tundra to evergreen forests where they have more protection from the cold and there is a better food supply. They dig deeply into the snow to eat lichen and other low-growing plants. Caribou are also called reindeer.
Other amazing migrators include: Pacific salmon, emperor penguins, ruby-throated hummingbirds, globe skimmer dragonflies, wildebeests, and many more.
Discover more about migration from the sources used in this article:
- Journey North—Teachers, use citizen science in your classroom to track Fall’s Journey South. A wonderful classroom resource!
- The Nature Conservancy
- Earth Rangers
- Going Home: The Mystery of Migration by Marianne Berkes
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