Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Migrates between northern summer range and southern winter range. Moves north as ice cover breaks up, south just before ice forms in fall (Leatherwood and Reeves 1983).
Western Arctic (summarized in DeMaster et al. 2000): From April through June, Bowheads migrate north and east, following leads in the sea ice in the eastern Chukchi Sea until they pass Point Barrow where they travel east toward the southeastern Beaufort Sea. During early fall (early September to mid-October), bowheads migrate west out of the Beaufort Sea. From mid-September to mid-October they are seen in the northeast Chukchi Sea, some as far north as latitude 72|N; when they reach the Siberian coast, they follow it southeast to the Bering Strait. They begin passing Cape Netten on the Chukchi Peninsula in mid-October to mid-November. By late October and November they arrive in the Bering Sea, where they overwinter.
Eastern Arctic (Summarized in Finley 2000): Spring: Appear at the Cumberland Sound floe edge in April and May, reaching northern Baffin Bay and the Northwest Passage/Lancaster Sound in May and June. Historically, individuals migrating to Hudson Bay arrived off southwest Southampton Island in May and June, then moved north through Roes Welcome Sound and into Foxe Basin. They may also move directly from Hudson Strait into Foxe Basin, arriving at the Igloolik floe edge by late June. Autumn: Migration from north of 70 degrees N is a more casual affair, beginning in late August/September, and lasting two to three months. Migration past northeast Baffin Island peaks in late September/early October; they eventually reach Cumberland Sound (southeast Baffin Island) in late October/November. At Cape Hopes Advance in Hudson Strait, peak movement occurs in late November. In winter, they are generally found within the margin of pack ice fields and polynyas between 60 and 70 degrees N.