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Humpback Whale Facts

a bird swimming in water

Here are some interesting facts about Whales that you may not know:

  • The Humpback Whale is a species of baleen whale. The baleen whales have plates attached to them to capture small prey like small fish, krill, herring and mackerel. Humpbacks have from 270 to 400 darkly coloured baleen plates on each side of their mouths.
  • The average humpback whales diet during their feeding season is 4,400-5,500 pounds (2000-2500kg) of plankton, krill and small schooling fish. Feeding season in cold waters lasts about 120 days and they eat twice during the day.
  • Humpback whales can dive for up to 30 minutes, but mostly only up to 15 minutes. Humpbacks can dive at a depth of 500-700 feet (150m-210m). Humpbacks normally swim at a speed of 3-9 m/ph. (4.8-14 k/ph.) but can go up to 15-16.5 m/ph. (24-26.5 k/ph.) in bursts when they are in danger. They usually feed much slower around 1.2-3.5 m/ph.
  • Humpback whales live at the surface of the ocean both in the open ocean and shallow coastline waters. When not migrating, they prefer shallow waters. Humpbacks migrate from tropical waters where they breed to arctic waters where they eat.
  • Humpback whales take long seasonal migrations. They mate and calve in tropical waters during the winter and then travel to cold polar waters during the summer to feed. During the summer in the warm waters the adults do not eat, but live off their layer of blubber (fat); the young calves feed on rich mothers’ milk.
  • Whale breeding for Humpbacks occurs mostly in the winter to early spring while near the surface and in warm, tropical waters. The gestation period is about 11-12 months and the calf is born tail first (this is normal for cetaceans – a subset of aquatic mammals consisting of whales’ dolphins and porpoises) and near the surface in warm, shallow waters. The newborn instinctively swims to the surface within 10 seconds for its first breath; it is helped by its mother using her flippers.
  • Within 30 minutes of its birth the baby whale can swim. The newborn calf is about 14 feet long (4.3m) and weighs about 2.5 tonnes. Twins are extremely rare (about 1% of births) there is almost always only one calf. The baby is nurtured with its mothers’ milk and is weaned in about 11 months. The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer. Calves drink 100 pounds of milk each day. Humpback whales reach puberty at 4-7 years old, and maturity at 15 years. A calf is born to a female every 1-3 years.
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