5 Rocky Mountain Migrators – Animals That Leave During Winter

rocky mountain migrators

A beautiful Monarch Butterfly is a Rocky Mountain migrator.

Here is a list of 5 Rocky Mountain migrators that leave the Rockies in the fall for somewhere else and return in the spring.  Do you know about all of these?

Remember when winter comes to the Rockies, animals choose one of three main strategies to survive – adaptation, hibernation, or migration.  Many animals choose to migrate.  That can mean very different things, such as traveling thousands of miles or just a few.  Here are 5 animals that migrate that I wanted to highlight as good examples of the different approaches to migration.

rocky mountain migratorsNotes On Animals That Migrate

Animals all choose whatever strategy will give them the best chance at survival during the cold winters of the Rockies.  An animals’ strategy may depend on how that animal is built.  For example, it is difficult for a small mammal, such as a pika or marmot, to walk long distances.  Thus, those animals probably aren’t going to choose migration as their strategy.

However, this brings up a question of do animals choose the strategy that works best for them based on how they are made or did they evolve over time to better meet their survival strategy?

5 Rocky Mountain Migrators – Animals That Migrate

Rocky Mountain migrators

An elk in the Rocky Mountains

Elk – Elk are one of those animals that migrate, but not in the same way that long distance migrators move.  Rather elk move to lower elevations.  During the summer elk end to live in high mountain pastures.  In winter they can be found in lower elevation in forests and grasslands.  The likely reason for this is to avoid the high elevations that get colder and have more snow for areas where they can more easily find food.

rocky mountain migrators

A Swainsons Hawk.

Swainsons Hawk – This little known bird is actually one of the most amazing migrators.  It migrates a distance of nearly 6,000 miles in the fall and then again in the spring.  It spends summer in the Rockies, but then travels to the souther part of South America in the fall.  The one way journey takes nearly 2 months to complete.

Monarch Butterfly – Most bugs are so small that they can’t possible considering making a long distance migration.  However, the Monarch is no ordinary insect.  This amazing butterfly migrates from the Rocky Mountains and areas throughout the western United States all the way down to Mexico.

Salmon – Yes, this is another well known example of a migrator that most of us have probably heard about.  There are some salmon in the upper headwaters of the Columbia River, in the Sawtooth Mountains and other areas of Idaho.  These Salmon are not migrating in order to avoid winter.  Instead they are migrating in order to live their lives and then reproduce.

rocky mountain migrators

An Osprey perched high up on a tree by itself.

Osprey – This beautiful bird lives throughout the Rockies near water where it hunts for fish.  During the summer they can be found near rivers and lakes.  However, they migrate down to Central and South America during the winter to go to warmer climates where they can easily catch fish.

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