Animated Map Shows Animal and Bird Migrations

Elizabeth Borneman


The world is constantly changing, and every generation has its own problems to contend with. Our modern times certainly have their own issues, one of them being global warming and climate change.

Climate change because of natural and man-made effects is impacting our world in many ways; from glaciers to ocean levels, human habitation to animal migrations, climate change is influencing our world in more ways than we can know now.

The environment of animals is being changed to the extent that some of them cannot live in the places they are naturally found. As these environments become less and less hospitable for different species, animals are being forced to migrate to new locations where they may or may not thrive. In many cases, human development has already blocked their way to other suitable environments.

Scientists modelled animal migrations based on global climate change patterns and created a map that showed potential future migrations of different species in North, Central, and South America.

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They studied 2,903 different species of vertebrates in the Western hemisphere and mapped how they would be impacted based on future climate change projections.

Some of the map’s data was using present-day information regarding how species have already begun to move, while other parts of the map are projections of where animals may move based on suitable climates near their existing migration routes.

Screenshot from Migrations in Motion map.
Screenshot from Migrations in Motion map.

The map also uses data compiled by Chris Helm’s global wind map, which would assist with the migration of birds, bees, and other small creatures that migrate through the air. This data allowed the map to be expanded to multiple continents to show the worldwide spread of certain species.

According to the animated map, there would be the most movement of species in the south eastern United States and south eastern Brazil.

The animated map can help scientists and conservationists detect how climate change is already affecting certain species of vertebrates in the Western hemisphere. They can also use the map to track where they think other species will move and how cities, human developments, and other man made factors will influence future species migrations.

Modelling these developments with maps like this can help the future of animal conservation and allow researchers to plan for the protection of species in advance of their changes in environment.

Visit: Migrations in Motion – The Nature Conservancy

More: Migration in Motion: Visualizing Species Movements Due to Climate Change

White-crowned sparrows build a mental map for migration

One study looked at how white-crowned sparrows map their navigation routes to their wintering grounds in Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

The study looked at the navigation path of 15 adult and 15 juvenile birds. As the birds mature they build a mental map of their wintering grounds so that they can return to the location even if their starting point changes. White-crowned sparrows normally summer in Alaska but the 30 captured birds were released from New Jersey.

The adult birds accurately changed their route to a southwesterly direction while the juvenile birds, out of genetic instinct, flew due south, missing their target.

More on this study:

Thorup, K., Bisson, I. A., Bowlin, M. S., Holland, R. A., Wingfield, J. C., Ramenofsky, M., & Wikelski, M. (2007). Evidence for a navigational map stretching across the continental US in a migratory songbird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences104(46), 18115-18119.

One of the Longest Animal Migrations

Learn more about one long distance migrating species, the Rufu Red Knots which fly almost 20,000 miles per year:

Longest Avian Non-Stop Flight

E7 is a female bar-tailed godwit who has earned herself the distinction of the longest non-stop flight recorded for a land bird

According to scientists at the USGS who tracked E7 using a satellite transmitted that she was fitted with in New Zealand:

On March 17, E7 departed Miranda on the North Island of New Zealand and flew nonstop to Yalu Jiang, China. She completed the 6,300-mile-long flight in about eight days. There E7 settled in for a 5-week-long layover before departing for breeding grounds to nest.

On the evening of May 1, she headed east out over the Sea of Japan and the North Pacific. Eventually turning east, E7 headed northeast toward Alaska, crossing the end of the Alaska Peninsula. She was on her way to her eventual nesting area on the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta in western Alaska. E7 also completed this flight without stopping, covering some 4,500 miles in five days.

Researchers then tracked E7 to the coast of the Yukon Delta where she joined other godwits preparing for their return flight to New Zealand.

USGS Press Release
Bar-tailed godwits Z0. Photo: Daniel Ruthrauff, USGS. Public domain.
Bar-tailed godwits Z0. Photo: Daniel Ruthrauff, USGS. Public domain.

An embedded Argos satellite transmitter (note dorsally exposed antenna) has been implanted in the bar-tailed godwit “Z0” to aid aerodynamics during the species’ non-stop flights across the Pacific Ocean.

From the USGS: “This bird was tracked from her non-breeding area in New Zealand to a spring staging area in the Yellow Sea (10,000 km in 8.8 days, non-stop), then to a breeding area in Alaska (4,200 km in 5.5 days, non-stop), and finally back to Australasia via a trans-Pacific flight (9,800 km in 7.6 days, non-stop).”


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About the author
Elizabeth Borneman
My name is Elizabeth Borneman and I am a freelance writer, reader, and coffee drinker. I live on a small island in Alaska, which gives me plenty of time to fish, hike, kayak, and be inspired by nature. I enjoy writing about the natural world and find lots of ways to flex my creative muscles on the beach, in the forest, or down at the local coffee shop.