5. Army Ants
For many animals large or small their life is a migration. Perhaps one of the most distinct examples of this nomadic lifestyle can be found in the continents of Africa and South America. There are over 200 species of army ants out there, and these little buggers provide perhaps the best example of swarm mentality, that is many individuals acting as one, in the animal kingdom. Their life is so nomadic that they don’t even build dwellings. Instead, they come together to form their own structure called a bivouac. This living breathing structure becomes a temporary breeding factory where parts of their prey are brought back to be consumed. Impressively, these ants can dismember prey many times their own size through teamwork and swarm tactics. Their sharp mandibles can cut down even tarantulas into kibbles and bits in no time.
4. Sandhill Cranes
Hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes travel from Northeast Siberia to the American Midwest and South every year. They travel in flocks of over ten thousand birds in size, and delve deep into states such as New Mexico and Arizona. They glide through thermal columns, or areas of hot air rising from the earth as a result of uneven solar radiation, to save energy for the long haul. If you watch a flock of sandhill cranes, then you might even make out an outline of a thermal column they are using. This species is also estimated to be millions of years old. Their migration to America’s heartland is relatively new, however. The migration is a result of adapting to the ever increasing presence of humans worldwide. At the end of their southern trek, they find their main food source: the discarded remnants left over from the mechanical harvesting of farms. The farmers enjoy the new accompaniment by these ancient creatures as they help clean up the place.
Perhaps no animal is best known for its migratory prowess than the wildebeest. The timing of their trips is irregular, but it is thought that they follow average patterns of rainfall and the accompanying foliage growth. Wildebeest often travel with zebra to use them as extra crocodile bait for when they swarm perilous river crossings. They also exhibit a special knowledge of the languages of other animals, and so respond to many different calls of alarm. Even with their uncanny ability to come together and work through a swarm mentality, these guys still end up delivering lunch to the doorstep of Africa’s keystone predators. Vultures also follow this migration as an important food source, and so find themselves fatefully entangled with the wildebeest. If wildebeest numbers run low through natural famine or poaching, the vultures also suffer.
2. Monarch Butterflies
Monarch butterflies are fairly common in many northeast states of the USA, and range even as far north as Canada. They often herald the coming of warm weather and dazzle our eyes during the dog days of summer. What we may not realize, or at least comprehend the magnitude of, is that these beautiful creates travel over 5000 miles (to and from) each year. When they notice that winter is coming, these butterflies pack up and head south to Mexico and areas of the US bordering it. The year-round warm temperature accommodates these critters until they are ready to head north again. The back and forth dynamic is simply because that while the monarchs can’t survive winter in the north, they need the blooms of larvae that the breaking of spring provides. Insect spawns aren’t as common or as predictable in the warm recesses of the monarch’s wintering grounds.
1. Arctic Terns
The holder of the longest migration from start to finish, the Arctic tern is a winged badass that loves to travel. They are found at both the North and South Polar Regions and enjoy the summer at each location. When the winter winds begin to blow in, these wanderlusts pack up and head to literally the polar opposite of the world. If you do the math, they travel over 40,000 miles every year. With each healthy bird living around 30 years, that’s over 1,200,000 miles traveled over every lifespan. Like George Clooney, the Arctic tern spends much of its life up in the air. For food, these feathered commuters will often mug other birds in the air, forcing them to drop their prey. They stop their migratory habits to nest every one to three years.