Humpback Whales
Friday, 26 October 2007

Humpbacks are one of the easiest species for researchers and whale watchers alike to identify. You really can't miss their flippers, which may be as much as one-third of their total body length. Their knobbly heads are also unmistakable, and they have 12 to 36 throat grooves which expand when the whale is feeding using baleen instead of teeth.

Individual humpbacks are recognised by the distinctive pattern of black and white markings on the underside of the fluke (tail), clearly visible when they dive. These are as unique as a fingerprint and enable researchers to keep track of individual whales, year after year.

Field ID:
Knobbly head, Two blowholes, Throat grooves, Very long white and/or black flippers, Body mainly black or grey, Stubby dorsal fin, Tail flukes raised before deep dive, Wavy edge to fluke (tail)

Length (metres):
Adult 11.5 - 15m (38 - 49.5ft), New-born 4 - 5m (13 - 16.5ft)

Adult 25 - 30 tonnes, New-born 1 - 2 tonnes

Fish, Krill and/or other crustaceans

Humpback whales are natural show-offs! They seem happy to entertain whale watchers by breaching; spy-hopping; lobtailing and flipper-slapping. Hardly surprising that humpbacks are the most popular whales on whale watch trips, and probably create more great photo opportunities than any other cetacean species. Their dives usually last less than 10 minutes but can be up to 45 minutes long. Males can be quite aggressive towards each other during the breeding season and they sometimes have scars on their skin from fighting.