Which Rocky Mountain Animal Has The Longest Migration?

migration, salmon

One of the long distance travelers of the Rocky Mountains.  Photo via Flickr.

Many animals have a very long migration. But, do you know which animal travels or migrates the farthest during its life – a Salmon, Monarch Butterfly, or Swainsons Hawk?

My kids and I have watched nature shows about long distance migrations or journeys of various animals.  Every time I have seen those I am amazed about the ability of these animals to travel such long distances.  In the Rocky Mountains there are many animals that migrate during the winter.  Here is a look at how those long distance journeys compare.

Difficult To Compare Animals’ Distance Traveled

It is hard to compare the migration or travel distances of different kinds of animals for a number of reasons.  First of all, this comparison is based on our current understanding about the migration or traveling patterns of these animals.  It is possible that something has been missed.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for this comparison I am looking at the average distance traveled of these animals.  It is possible that certain individuals within each population of animals have traveled farther than the average.

Keep this in mind as you read on to see which of these animals that live in the Rocky Mountains travels the farthest.


A Monarch Butterfly. Photo via Flickr.

How Far Is The Monarch Butterfly Migration?

Monarch Butterflies that live in the United States migrate to two different areas depending on which part of the United States they live in.  Those living east of the Rocky Mountains travel to Mexico in the winter.  Those living west of the Rocky Mountains travel down to southern California for the winter.

The Monarchs that migrate to Mexico may travel up to 3,000 miles.  That is much farther than those that migrate to Southern California.  The journey may take them up to two months to complete.

How Far Do Salmon Travel?

As we know salmon live in some of the waters of the Rocky Mountains, mainly up in the Columbia River System in Idaho.  These fish begin their journey in the Pacific Ocean and then travel up the Columbia River towards the small creek they were born in to spawn.  It is estimated that these salmon make a journey of 900 miles and travel up 700 feet in elevation to arrive at their final spot.

A major difference between the Salmon’s journey and these other animals’ journey is the reason for it.  Salmon are not actually migrating to move somewhere better during the winter.  Instead, they are traveling this great distance just once (twice if you count when they are born and head out to sea) in order to spawn.

migration, swainsons hawk

Photo via Flickr.

How Far Is The Swainsons Hawk Migration

This bird is truly a long distance migrator.  It migrates all the way from the Rocky Mountains down to the southern tip of South America.  That is a distance of about 6,000 miles one way!  It takes the bird about two months for each one-way migration.


The Rocky Mountain animal that travels the farthest – Swainsons Hawk – 6,000 miles!