It is thought that they have biologicalclocks and are good geographers be-cause many recognize rivers, moun-tains and cities; some even say thatthey are great astronomers becausethey guide themselves by means ofthe sun, the stars and even the Earth’s
magnetic eld; others recognize chem
-ical odors and marine currents. Whatis certain is that every year, millions ofmigratory species, whether by water,land or air, travel enormous distancesover the American continent and be-yond in search of better climatic condi-tions, more abundant food or a suitablesite for reproduction, which generallycoincides with the warmer season.These odysseys are not exempt fromgreat challenges; some species travel upto 20,000 miles round-trip. This happens
with species of whales, bats, birds, sh,
sea turtles and even insects like the mon-
arch buttery. Most ee the North Ameri
-can winter to seek food in the southernpart of the continent, and then return totheir feeding grounds in the north whentheir favorite foods sprout anew in thespring. But there are also migrations thatare made from the east to the west ofthe continent and vice versa, from conti-nental to coastal zones, along rivers andstreams, and others that are altitudinal innature; in other words, some creatures goup and down the mountains, like the quet-zal, which in a certain season of the year
migrates to lower lands to nd food.
Very small species like ruby-throatedhummingbirds (
which measure only 10 cm, y non-stop
for 26 hours from Canada and the UnitedStates to Central America at a velocityof 28 mph for a voyage of 652 miles that
even includes crossing the Gulf of Mex
-ico. If the blackpoll warbler (
), only 13 cm long, were to burngasoline instead of body fat, it would get715,852 miles per gallon.The abilities of many of these admirabletravelers can even compete with thoseof commercial aviation, if not in time,then in altitude. For example, Swainson’shawks, which on their voyage from North America to the Southern Cone only mi-grate during the day taking advantage ofrising warm air currents to reach altitudesabove 19,680 feet and traveling distancesof up to 37 miles without losing altitude.They travel a total of 6214 miles in a littlemore than two months.The leatherback (
)is one of the most surprising sea turtlesfor its huge size with a carapace lengthof up to 6 feet and weighing up to 885lbs, and because it travels the longestdistances ever recorded for a reptile, a journey that it makes between its feed-ing areas and the nesting beach where itwas hatched in order to lay its eggs. Forexample, a female found nesting in June2005 on Samsambo Beach in Surinamtraveled around the Atlantic Ocean, vis-iting the coasts of Africa and Europe fora trip of over 9,000 miles, before begin-ning her return to Surinam. And the most extensive individual mi-gration known for a mammal was thatof a humpback whale (
), initially spotted off the Ant-arctic Peninsula and then seen off theSanta Elena Peninsula of Costa Rica,for a total trip of 7,130 miles.