Teaching overview

Learning points

  • Different animals migrate for different reasons – some migrate to have their offspring, while others search for better feeding grounds.
  • The arctic tern makes the longest migration of any animal, travelling almost 70,000 kilometres from the Arctic to Antarctica and back again.
  • Humans disrupted the migration route of caribou in Alaska by building oil pipelines. The caribou were forced to find a new route as a result.

Curriculum keywords

  • Animals
  • Adaptation
  • Seasons

5 things you didn't know

What is animal migration?

1. Animal migration is the long-distance movement of groups of animals. Migration occurs throughout the animal kingdom, and different animals migrate for different reasons. Some migrate to have their young, while others travel to find better feeding grounds.

Animal navigation

2. It’s still unclear how many animals know where to go when they migrate. Scientists believe that instinct tells some animals to follow the Sun as it travels over the sky, but others are born with the ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field – allowing them to figure out which way is north.

Safety in numbers

3. Animals usually migrate in groups because this provides safety in numbers, and because it can help them to find their way. An estimated 40 million red crabs migrate all at the same time on Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean – there are so many of them that roads have to be closed!

The Arctic tern

4. The Arctic tern makes the longest migration of any animal. Every year, it makes the journey from its breeding grounds in the Arctic to the Antarctic for the warmer summers, and back again. That’s a round trip of about 70,000 kilometres!

Human impact on migration

5. Humans have been responsible for affecting the migration routes of some animals. The construction of oil pipelines in Alaska, in the United States, has forced caribou to change their usual route to have their calves.

Spark a discussion

  • Why do animals migrate?
  • Which animal has the longest migration?
  • How have humans affected the migration of caribou in Alaska?

Explore our resources

Complete your lesson with teaching resources on migratory birds from Tigtag.

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Discover free online CPD for primary science from Reach Out CPD.

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