Gray Whales and Humpback Whales have similar migration patterns, spending their summers feeding in cold water and migrating to warmer climates to breed in the winter. These particular whales have one of the most extensive migrations known, clocking in approximately 10,000 miles round trip every year!
Grays reach lengths of between 36-46′ or 11-14 meters and received their common name from their gray blotchy coloring. Though they are similar in size to the Humpback, they lack a dorsal fin. Instead, they have a series of bumps along the back that scientists call ‘knuckles’. They travel slowly, frequently only 5 miles per hour, which means that the trip from feeding to breeding grounds can take several months. As with most baleen whales, Grays tend to be solitary. We do see them traveling in small groups though, and mothers with their calves are a frequent treat in the spring. A fun fact for Gray whales is that they are the only baleen whale that feeds directly on the seafloor, scooping tiny crustaceans out of the mud!
Monterey Bay is directly along their migration route, so we are lucky enough to see these whales as they head north to feed, and when they go south to their breeding grounds off Mexico.