Birds That Fly The Farthest To Migrate

As we all know, there are many birds within the animal kingdom that migrate each year. It’s to find food, escape from harsh weather conditions and for breeding. And some of these birds travel extraordinary distances, some even cover thousands of miles during their long journey. So who are the kings of bird migration and travel the farthest distances each year to reach their destinations?

We start out with the amazing and bring you to the record holder!

Pied Wheatear

Pied Wheatear

You don't have to be big to travel far, as the Pied Wheatear proves with an amazing journey recorded at 11,184 miles. This small insect-eating bird travels from southeast of Europe all the way to China and wintering in India and northeastern Africa. Their migration moves them from breeding grounds to wintering grounds and back, meaning some of these birds may travel more than 11,000 miles in a year. 


Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

The Pectoral Sandpiper has to really cover some distance when it travels from the breeding grounds in the tundra of northeast Asia or from Alaska and central Canada, all the way down to their wintering grounds in South America. There’s even some of the Asian breeders traveling to Australia and as far as New Zealand. To make this journey the Pectoral Sandpiper will fly 18,000 miles in the average course of it’s annual life.


Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

The tiny Northern Wheatear, travels across 9,000 miles of open ocean, ice, and desert to move between their breeding grounds and wintering grounds, which makes their annual migration 18,000 miles. This small bird spends the spring in the north, ranging from northern and central Asia all the way to Europe, Greenland, Alaska, and even some parts of Canada. And for the winter, it travels all the way to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But if you thought traveling 18,000 miles was amazing, just imagine this tiny bird crossing the open ocean! It is the longest known migration for a songbird. But this isn't the record-holder.

Short-Tailed Shearwater

Short - Tailed Shearwater 

Here is another Shearwater with an affinity for travel, and it’s the Short-tailed Shearwater. This amazing bird travels the Pacific every year, moving from their breeding grounds in Australia, up to the Aleutian Islands and Kamchatka in the far north and then traveling back down the western coast of North America (we’re not done) and then crossing over to Australia to begin its next breeding season. Wow! This incredible loop of the Pacific means the Short-tailed Shearwater is flying some 27,000 miles annually!

Sooty Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater

There's even a longer flying Shearwater - it’s the Sooty Shearwater and they travel an incredible distance each year, logging as much as 40,000 miles as they make their circular route from their breeding colonies in the Falkland Islands in the spring to Arctic waters to feed throughout the summer, and then all the way back down to their breeding grounds in the fall. These birds can really travel, moving from southern to northern hemispheres and covering as much as 310 miles a day.

There was once a time when the Sooty Shearwater was the record-holder for the longest migration for a bird, but recently, that record was broken by the next bird we feature in this blog.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

And now for the record-holder in migration travel - The Arctic Tern, an elegant white seabird. In 2010, researchers discovered that the Arctic Tern travels twice the distance previously thought, traveling an average of 44,000 miles per year. That makes their travel the longest migration of any bird in the world. These spectacular birds travel from Greenland in the Arctic north, all the way down to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. Yes, its migration actually takes them from pole to pole as they travel from breeding grounds to feeding grounds and back. All to maintain its life of an endless summertime. 

Now, find out which bird made the longest flight without once stopping to rest, eat or drink...

Bar-Tailed Godwit

Longest Nonstop Flight Ever Recorded:

Bar-tailed Godwit

There are many species of birds that travel amazing distances over the course of a season, but what about in a single flight? The longest nonstop flight for a bird ever recorded was taken by a Bar-tailed Godwit, a migrating wader bird. This bird flew 7,145 miles from Alaska to New Zealand in nine days, without ever once stopping for food, water or to rest. Now that is some amazing endurance! This flight was part of it’s annual migration from Alaska to New Zealand and back, and until it was recorded, researchers had no idea that they could make such long flights without stopping.

In an article on National Geographic, Phil Battley of New Zealand's Massey University, who took part in the study tracking this species, states: "The prospect of a bird flying all the way across the Pacific was so much further than what we thought possible, it seemed ludicrous."

This is the longest known non-stop flight of any bird. The flight took approximately nine days. At least three other Bar-tailed Godwits also appear to have reached the Yellow Sea after non-stop flights from New Zealand."



Treehugger , Earth Matters , National Geographic


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