Humpback Whale

Megaptera novaeangliae

Length

40-50 feet (12.2-15.2 m)

Weight

25-40 tons (22,680-36,000 kg)

Distribution

Found in all oceans, most humpback whales follow regular migration routes, spending summers in temperate and polar waters feeding, wintering in tropical waters for mating and calving

Population

30,000-40,000 individuals

Description

The humpback whale is a baleen whale and belongs to a group of whales known as the rorquals, which also includes blue whales, fin whales, Bryde’s whales, sei whales, and minke whales. These whales have throat grooves that expand while the animal is feeding. These whales have dark gray bodies with mottled white bellies. Every humpback whale has a unique pattern on its dorsal fin and tail flukes that can help identify individuals.

Humpback whales feed on small shrimp-like creatures called krill and various types of bait fish. Humpback whales are known for their acrobatic breaches during which they can launch themselves completely out of the water. While all whales are capable of breaching, humpback whales seem to do this very frequently, perhaps to show off for potential mates. They are also known for their unique “whale songs” which can travel hundreds of miles.

While most of the humpback whales in the Pacific migrate from Alaska to Hawaii for the winter, there is a small population of approximately 2,000 individuals that instead migrates down the coast of California toward Baja, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.