Many mammals, birds, fish, insects, and other animals move from one place to another at certain times of the year. This movement is called migration. Migration is part of the life cycle of these animals. Animals migrate for different reasons. Many migrate to breed or to find food. Some animals migrate to places where they can hibernate, or rest for the winter. Others migrate because the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry during certain times of the year.
Most animals migrate across water, land, or air. Many birds and bats in northern parts of the world fly south for the winter. Some whales swim from cold polar regions to warmer waters in winter. Other migrations are vertical, or up and down. Mule deer in the western United States travel from higher to lower parts of the mountains in winter. Some earthworms move from the top of the soil to deeper underground.
Animals can travel a few miles or several thousand miles. Frogs go short distances to ponds to breed. On the other hand, the Arctic tern spends the summer in the Arctic and the winter in Antarctica. This journey covers about 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers). Migrations can take place either during the day or at night. Birds such as geese migrate during the day. Sparrows, warblers, and thrushes travel by night.
Migrating animals can find their way over long and complex routes. They use land features such as rivers and mountains to tell where they are. Scientists think that many animals use the position of the sun and stars to find the way, too. Some animals, such as salmon, use their sense of smell.