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Captain’s Blog

7 Facts about the Great Humpback Whale Migration

April 27, 2022

It’s no secret that Humpback whales undertake one of the most impressive migrations of any species on earth. It is truly an incredible feat to undergo such a long journey every single year. Read on to find seven amazing facts about the Humpback whale migration from BC and learn more about where one of our favourite species of whale spends its time!

  1. The Humpback Whale is a Migratory Species

The Humpback whale is a migratory species of whale that feeds from Spring-Fall in cold, nutrient-rich waters. In early winter they migrate down South to tropical waters for calving and mating.

  1. They Eat Little to Nothing During this Incredible Migratory Feat!

In late spring, summer, and fall, Humpback whales eat as much as they possibly can to put on as much weight as possible before their long migration down South. Once they are in tropical waters, they put all of their energy and attention into mating and calving, and primarily live off of their stored blubber.

  1. Humpbacks can Travel up to a 10,000 mile Long Round-trip!

Humpback whales once held the world record for the longest migration of any mammal on Earth until a Grey Whale was observed swimming nearly 14,000 miles from Russia to Mexico and back again. The time it takes for a humpback whale to migrate between feeding and breeding grounds is somewhere between 4-8 weeks.

  1. There’s an Order to Things:

When it comes to Humpback migration there’s certainly an order to things. The first to begin their journey from cold waters are the mothers and calves, followed by sub-adults, and lastly adult males. The very last whales to leave the feeding grounds are the pregnant females. They will try to feed for as long as possible in order to sustain themselves for the long ‘road’ ahead of them. They must sustain themselves for the long migration, the birthing process, and the nursing process. There is no food available for them on the nursing grounds, and they will not eat again until they return to colder waters with a calf swimming closely beside.

  1. Humpback Whales are Seen Year-round in BC! 

Humpback whales can be seen year-round in British Columbia. This could be because of the variation in times that individual humpback whales migrate. It is likely that some overlap in their migrations. Some humpbacks may leave as late as February, which can overlap with Humpbacks that are returning.

  1. Different Humpback Whales have Different Destinations

Many Humpback whales that are seen in Southeast Alaska and Northern B.C. go to Hawaii in order to breed. This differs from the Humpback whales that we see in the Salish Sea, who tend to spend their winters in Mexico. There are exceptions to these general migration rules of course, and some humpbacks even switch breeding grounds each year!

  1. It Can be a Treacherous Journey

Humpback calves are targeted by Bigg’s Killer Whales. This is one of the theories for why Humpback whales migrate to warmer waters – it may be in part to avoid predation by apex predators. 30-40% of the Humpback whales found off the coast of Mexico have scars on their tail flukes from Killer whale attacks. This suggests that Humpback moms fairly successfully defend their calves from attacks!

Humpback whales are one of many amazing species that we are able to observe on our tours. From their impressive size to their incredible migratory feats – they are truly an animal to be respected and revered. We are fortunate to spend many of our days on the water alongside these incredible creatures. I hope this article paints a clearer picture for you about the life of the Humpback whale – and I hope it inspires you to come experience the wild with us!

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