Have you ever wanted to pack your bags and travel to a faraway home? Perhaps you’ve moved long distance or have had the good fortune of traveling between two homes. Consider this: thousands of animal species travel, at no cost, between homes each year. The sight of migration can provide us with a sense of inspiration and awe.
Their reasons for traveling may vary, but numerous species migrate. For those who know how, it’s possible to observe this instinctive yearly ritual. Here are four species with unusual migration habits to inspire your curiosity, followed by resources to help you locate migration paths in your area.
Your experience with tarantulas might be limited to the occasional zoo observation. You may be surprised to learn that tarantulas migrate each year as part of their romantic quest for a partner during their breeding season.
Tarantula mating takes place in September and October. Males generally travel distances up to a mile or so, while females tend to stay in their burrows. Having discovered a female lair, the male will make a rapping sound to alert the female. When she emerges, the male will then perform a ritualized dance for the female, according to Live Science.
The Comanche National Grassland, located in southeastern Colorado, is considered an excellent site for viewing the tarantula migration, noted by the Gazette. Peak viewing occurs in mid to late September. Thousands of male tarantulas are expected to make their journey to find a mate. Another viewing area is located on Hwy. 71 north of Ordway. It is best to avoid rainy or windy days for the best viewing chances. We recommend wearing boots and long pants.
The Monarch butterfly is well known for its yearly migration. Lesser known is the incredible, multi-generation journey of the dragonfly.
Smithsonian Magazine published an excellent article on the migration habits of dragonflies.
What’s unique about them is that individual dragonflies starting the journey do not reach the destination. Instead, they give birth to offspring along the way. In one example, the National Wildlife Federation reported that Chicago’s shoreline is a staging area for Green Darners, with numbers counted to 1 million.
Scientists are interested in the migration habits of insects, considering a decreasing population of many insect species. See the resources listed at the end of this article to discover insect migration pathways in your state.
3. Northern Elephant Seals
A unique pattern of migration exists among the Northern Elephant seals. The seals, whose males have large elephant-like appendages, are known for swimming great distances (a fact not evident considering their corpulent appearance.) The species swim further than 11,000 miles to their favorite feeding spots in the ocean. Males swim from the California coast to feed in the Alaskan Sea. Females feed separately further south in the Pacific.
While these gigantic mammals spend most of their time at sea, you can observe them each year at the Año Nuevo State Reserve during the breeding season. Guided tours are provided at the park from December through March. Visitors must hike a few miles over uneven terrain during the park tour. However, your effort will be rewarded with the sight and sound of thousands of seals on the sand dune beaches during their mating and brooding ritual. Smithsonian Magazine recently described this unique migration in their essay, “Return of the Beasts.”
4. Sandhill Cranes
According to the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, the Sandhill Crane was hunted to near-extinction in the 19th century.
But, if you happen to be in the midwest at the time of their migration, you would never have guessed it. Sandhill Cranes are a frequent visitor to local cornfields throughout the upper midwest. They gorge themselves on field corn to prepare for a long flight south.
Each year in October, we drive to Sherburne Wildlife Refuge and park along the county road that borders the nesting ground. A few minutes before sunrise, you can expect to hear the sound of honking cranes as they wake up and gradually take flight to the local cornfields.
Within 20 minutes of dawn, the sky fills with dozens of cranes, flying overhead with mechanical precision and an odd clucking habit. A refuge employee taught us to count the birds in groups of 10, instead of one at a time. It is common to see hundreds, perhaps thousands of birds on a given morning in late October. This yearly rite of passage is pure inspiration.
Find Out More About Migration Sightings In Your Area
Has reading about these unique behaviors captured your interest? Would you like to find out more about migrating wildlife in your area?
Here are a few resources to help you locate migration pathways near you: