Visualizing the size, scale and significance of animal migrations
A colony of ants; a herd of cows; a shoal of fish. In the natural world animals group together for companionship, to feed, reproduce and ultimately to ensure the survival of their kind. In doing so they travel in tremendous groups over vast distances; various reasons drive animals to migrate and when they do, it creates an incredible spectacle of the natural world. We document some of the grandest of these migrations to see how strength really does come in numbers.

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Fruit Bats

1,000 Miles

Mammals. By Air

Wandering Albatross

9,000 Miles

Bird. By Air

Globe Skimmer Dragonfly

11,000 Miles

Insect. By Air

Monarch butterflies

1,400 Miles

Insect. By Air

Baueri bar-tailed godwit

18,500 Miles

Bird. By Air

Sooty Shearwater

40,000 Miles

Bird. By Air

Ruby-throated hummingbird

1,400 Miles

Bird. By Air

Arctic Tern

55,923 Miles

Bird. By Air


2,982 Miles

Mammals. By Land

Blue wildebeest

9,000 Miles

Mammals. By Land

Humpback Whales

5,160 Miles

Mammals. By Sea

Leatherback Turtle

12,744 Miles

Reptile. By Sea

Great White Shark

6,900 Miles

Fish. By Sea

Visualizing the size, scale and significance of animal migrations
Click on the buttons to zoom in and out of the interactive map
Click the buttons below to turn migrations routes on and off
by AIR
by SEA
So we've seen the location of these incredible journeys, but how do these journey lengths compare?
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the longest migrations occur uninhibited over the air. Birds make some of the longest uninterrupted journeys with Arctic Terns leading the way. They travel from the arctic to the antarctic, and back again, each year. Interestingly the second largest migration is by Sooty Shearwaters, who do migrate around the same time but not as a flock. When it comes to bar-tailed godwits they have been recorded to have flown a distance of 6851 miles from New Zealand to the Yellow Sea in China - without taking a break for food or drink.
The distances which some animals travel is incredible, but so too are the size of the groups they migrate in. We have chosen some of the most significant.
How do these animal journeys compare in terms of size and distance?
Human Journeys
Whether they have been by land, sea or air humans have made some incredible journeys, not unlike their animal counterparts. Some of these journeys have been mechanically assisted - a feat in itself - while others have, impressively, relied on the human endurance alone.

British adventurer George Meegan walked an incredible, unbroken 19,019 miles from the southern tip of South America to the northernmost part of Alaska. For a human feat of endurance it is exceptional; it’s over six times the distance travelled by Caribous during their annual migration.
Armed Forces
The British Army is the largest force within the British Armed Forces; the RAF and the Royal Navy being of similar size. The Royal Marines is a branch of the Naval Service and is known as the UK’s amphibious light infantry force.
UK Armed Forces
British Army
Royal Air Force
Royal Navy
Royal Marines 7,760
It interesting to compare the size of the military fighting force today, and in the two world wars in 1914 and 1939 respectively. The first year of World War One saw an incredible 1,186,337 sign up as part of the war effort, this is compared to half a million who volunteered at the start of World War Two - soon after compulsory conscription was introduced.
British troops enlisted in 1914 (first year of WW1)
British troops volunteered in 1939 (first year of WW2)
Military Animals
There are 485 horses serving in the UK Armed Forces and are split between in the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the Household Division and at the Defence Animal Centre. They serve a purely ceremonial role. The 1st Military Working Dog Regiment has the ability to surge to a maximum capacity of 384 dogs. These dogs can be involved in anything from counter insurgency operations, the detection of Improvised Explosive Devices, assistance in the searching of routes, buildings and vehicles, enhancing security and patrolling key installations. Lance Corporal Derby XXIX was recently promoted to the rank of Private, which might not sound so strange, until you realise LCpl Derby XXIX is actually a pedigree Swaledale ram. He’s actually the Mercian Regimental Mascot; many regiments have been known to have animal mascots - the Royal Welsh Regiment have a goat called Fusilier Llywelyn!