You can find Humpback whales in just about every ocean across the globe. They feed in polar waters and migrate to warmer, subtropical waters for mating and giving birth. Their migration cycle includes a round trip of around 5,000 miles or 80 km annually. This was the longest recorded migration of any mammal until 2010 when a Gray whale took over the title with a recorded migration of 13,000 miles or 22,000 km.
Our community of Humpbacks here on the central California make the trek from their winter residence off Mexico where they mate, give birth and feed to their summer and fall feeding grounds here along our coastline.
Humpbacks are a species of baleen whale which means they don’t have any teeth but rather filter feed using flexible plates called baleen. They scoop up water to capture their intended prey of krill, sardines and other small fish and push the water out through their plates.
Additionally Humpbacks are one of the largest species of baleen whales coming in at lengths between 38-55’ long or 12-16 meters and weighing about 79,000 lbs or 36,000 kg.
Humpbacks are made distinct by their long pectoral flippers and the round protuberances called tubercles forward of their blowhole. The tubercles help the whale detect vibrations caused by their prey.
These whales are super popular amongst whale watchers because of their energetic surface behaviors like spyhopping, breaching, tail and flipper slapping, and surface lunge feeding. No other whale performs these aerobatic displays as distinctly as the Humpback whale.
Most of our Humpbacks arrive here in the spring and feed in the bay until fall, though in the past few years we’ve been lucky enough to see them throughout the winter as well.