Amazing Fall Migrations

Autumn’s cooldown sends many animals south to their wintering grounds, and for some the trip is nothing short of spectacular.

Our editors have compiled their favorite fall migration stories here – stories of sea turtles shimmering in the ocean waters, or migratory birds soaring high overhead on their way to distant destinations.

For these creatures to survive, and for all kinds of animals to have a future, they need wide open fields and forests, shores and skyways. Help protect these lands and waters today.

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Red Knot

A breathtaking display occurs each spring along the Delaware Bayshores of New Jersey—a phenomenon not seen anywhere else in the world.

Hundreds of thousands of shorebirds—including sandpipers, sanderlings and ruddy turnstones—converge on the shores of the Bay as part of an annual migration to their summer breeding grounds in the far away Arctic.

However, one bird stands out from the rest for its truly epic annual migration: the red knot.

Red knots fly more than 9,000 miles from south to north every spring and repeat the trip in reverse every autumn, making this bird one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom.

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Red knot

The farthest flung red knot populations spend the winter at the southern tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego. Come spring, they’re on their way to the Arctic where they breed during the short Arctic summer. The Delaware Bay is the final and most critical rest stop for these migratory birds. Read more about the red knot.

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Monarch Butterflies

Every autumn, around three million Monarch butterflies will travel around 3,000 miles to inhabit the mountains of central Mexico or small groves of trees along California’s coast.

Their migration has amazed people around the world—few butterflies have such a dramatic migration.

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Monarch Butterflies

There is a difference between butterfly and bird migrations. While most of the birds that fly south for the winter return, butterflies do not. Instead the adults continue to mate and reproduce then die.

Instead, the adults mate, reproduce and die in their winter homes.

You can make a difference for monarchs. Did you know that milkweed — the only plant they need to survive — has seen a decline around the United States? Read more about the decline of milkweed and what you can do about it.

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Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Hawksbill sea turtles are the most endangered of the world’s seven remaining sea turtle species. While Hawksbill sea turtles are endangered, they are nonetheless spread (thinly) throughout much of the world’s tropical waters.

Sponges are their favorite food, and many hawksbills spend most of their lives in or near coral reefs where sponges are abundant.

The Nature Conservancy has long supported the Arnavons Community Marine Conservation Area and the amazing work they do to protect one of the South Pacific’s most important refuges for nesting hawksbills.

Be a sea turtle hero! You can do your part by standing with a growing number of Sea Turtle Heroes who defend those shelled citizens of the sea.

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Florida Panther

The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. About 180 cats remain in the wild.

Panther habitat in Florida is too small and fragmented for the population to grow to a healthy and sustainable level. Males defend territories of 200 square miles and a single female will establish her home range of 75 square miles within a male’s territory.

We are leading an effort to protect panther habitat by creating wildlife corridors that allow the panthers to roam safely and freely. Learn more about our work to protect Florida panthers, and how you can help.