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Types of Birds That Can Fly Long Distances

| Updated September 26, 2017

Over 200 different species of birds thrive in the United States, some of which make epic migratory journeys in which they cover thousands of miles in a short space of time. These migratory birds go on these journeys to escape harsh winters and to mate. Migration distances vary greatly between species and between individual birds of the same species, with some embarking on extremely long distance migration paths. Birds such as bobolinks are known to travel at least 13,000 miles per trip.

Red Knot

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, “the red knot is truly a master of long-distance aviation.” It has a 20-foot wingspan and every year they fly 9,300 miles from the south of the American continent to the north, which makes it one of the longest migratory journeys in the animal kingdom. They travel north in search of North Atlantic horseshoe crab eggs found notably in the Delaware Bay area.

White Rumped Sandpiper

The white-rumped sandpiper is one of the kings of migrations and has one of the longest migration routes of any American bird. They breed in northern Canada and then travel south to the warmer climates of South America. The journey takes them over the Atlantic Ocean and usually takes around one month from start to finish. They live typically close to the shoreline which is perhaps why they take the route along the Atlantic.


Nighthawks are common throughout the U.S. and breed in open country. They migrate in flocks to the warm climate of South America. With a wingspan of just 23 inches they are one of the smaller migratory birds, which makes their epic journey even more remarkable. They tend to make the journey during the final weeks of August.

Arctic Terns

Very few other birds can match the pole-to-pole migration pattern of the Arctic tern. Starting in August and September, Arctic terns head away from their native Greenland and fly towards the Weddell Sea on the shores of Antarctica. According to a team of researchers, these birds stop off halfway on their journey in the middle of the North Atlantic, with some continuing via the west coast of Africa and others hugging the Brazilian coast. The reasons for these choices are unclear to researchers .