Which birds migrate the farthest

Many living things on earth are constantly on the move - in search of food, water or a partner to mate with. The hustle and bustle is difficult to keep track of, and although large animal migrations are some of the most striking natural phenomena, surprisingly little is known about them. A team led by the American zoologist Kyle Joly has now investigated the question of which land mammals cover the greatest distances. The scientists evaluated all the studies they could find on the topic and supplemented them with data from their own studies. The result was the top five long-distance runners (published in Scientific Reports).

Surprisingly, the chiru (Pantholops hodgsonii), also known as the Tibetan antelope, made it to fifth place. The females of these deer-sized animals form large herds after mating and migrate from Tibet to the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Qinghai. They cover an average of 700 kilometers every year. That is more than the 650 kilometers per year that the much better known blue wildebeest migrate in the Serengeti. With about 300 kilometers per year, the American pronghorn landed at the bottom of the list with their spectacular hikes.

The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) came fourth. A group of these US-native animals migrate from Wyoming to Idaho each summer, covering approximately 772 kilometers in the process. The fact that they have to cross two highways does not deter the animals from their long distance.

Third place went to a pack of wolves from the Canadian Northwest Territories. The animals walk an average of 1016 kilometers each year because they follow their prey. Wolves are the only predators that made it into the top five long-distance runners. The scientists also report on a single exceptional wolf from Mongolia that is said to have covered 7247 kilometers in one year.

Many reindeer calves die in the ice water

In second place came reindeer from Russia's Taimyr Peninsula, which, according to zoologists, migrate a distance of 1200 kilometers every year. In the arctic spring they move their newly born calves from the wooded taiga north to the tundra. In 2000 there were about a million wild reindeer on Taimyr, according to the animal welfare organization WWF. In the meantime it should be only about 380,000. In the past, the reindeer could easily cross the frozen rivers on their migration. Because of the climate crisis, the ice is now thawing earlier, so you have to constantly swim through ice water. Many calves fail and perish. The main reason for the strong decimation, however, are poachers, who primarily target the antlers.

The gold medal in the long-distance run goes to the caribou. Like the reindeer, these animals belong to the species Rangifer tarandus, but are somewhat larger and longer-legged. Caribou have long been considered the best marathon runners among mammals. However, this assessment was based on a single study, which has now been confirmed by the current investigation. Both the caribou in the Northwest Territories and those in Alaska migrate 1,350 kilometers each year. That is further than the distance from Munich to Naples.