Whales Migration Paths
Blue Whales can be seen from Perth to Adelaide and Melbourne from January to May each year. Then they leave and travel out to sea.
Southern Right Whales can be seen in the Great Australia Bite to Melbourne from June to November
Humbpack Whales can be seen from Sydney to Cairns and Perth to Broome from June to October and September to November in the southern parts of the Country on their southern migration
Size by Comparison
Blue Whale 82-98 feet (25 – 30 meters) Worlds Largest Mammal to ever live
Fin Whale 69-85 feet (21 – 26 meters) Second Largest Mammal
Sei Whale 66 feet (20 meters) Third Largest Mammal
Bowhead Whale 66 feet (20 meters) Third Largest Mammal
Sperm Whale 59 feet (18 meters) Fourth Largest Mammal
Right Whale 56 feet (17 meters) Fifth Larget Mammal
Humpback Whale 46 feet (14 meters) Sixth Larget Mammal
Types of Whales
They are the Sixth largest mammal on the planet, weighing around 35-45 ton which is equal to 500 adults.
Their average length is between 12-16 meters – females larger by 3/4 meter than the males.
Petoral fins (flippers) are 1/3 their body length, anything upto 5 meters long.
Humpbacks have incredible hearing over many kilometers which is used for navigation and communication. Their songs can be heard for hundreds of kilometers and they can hear the waves crashing on the beaches.
Very sensitive skin that is easily sunburned.
Remarkable eyes with strong muscles that change the shape of the lens so they can see in the air or underwater.
Their eyes are the size of a grapefruit
Tail Flukes that are used to identify individual whales, just like our finger prints are used to identify us
No pores or sweat glands
A belly button
Calves that are fed daily upto 600 litres of rich milk that is the consistency of thick yoghurt.
An expelled breath or “blow” that reaches a speed of around 300-360 kilometres per hour as it exits through the blowhole. The blow is tall and bushy and can be upto 3 meters in height.
The humpback has a stocky well rounded body narrowing to a slender tail. The head is massive and marked with tubercles containing hair follicles, providing sites for barnacles and whale lice. The huge pectoral fins easily differentiate the humpback and may be as much as a third of the total body length.
The body is mostly black with large white patches on the chin, throat, belly and flukes and the under surface of the pectoral fins which are broadly serrated on the leading edge, in contrast with the flukes, which are unique among whales, serrated on their trailing edges.
Southern Hemisphere humpbacks (which travel into Australian waters past the Gold Coast) tend to have more extensive white pigmentation than those of the Northern Hemisphere. At birth calves are four to five metres in length weighing around 1-2 tonne. They weigh a massive 35-45 tonnes at maturity, which is around 15 years. Found in all oceans to the edge of ice packs, but highly migratory between polar waters in summer and tropical waters in winter. Travelling from the Antartic to far North Queensland to breed during June and July. The gestation period is 11-12 months with the cow giving birth every two to three years for one calf. The calf will stay with it’s mother for approximately one year.
Feeding on krill, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and other small schooling fishes, most of their feeding is done in the Antartic, some animals do not feed at all whilst migrating. These Baleen whales have over 270 baleen plates attached to the upper jaw only and hang down around 80 centimeters, black/brown in colour and are made from the substance that your hair and fingernails are made of the Keratin, also known as ‘Whalebone’. Some products that were made from ‘Whalebone’ were
Ladies Corsets = Chimney sweep’s brushes = Floor brushes = Hair brushes = Combs = Necklaces
Whale songs are sung by the males only and are usually done so by solitary whales which usually cease when joined by other whales. The whale songs are used to attract other whales during mating season. When (presumably male) whales congregate around a female, they fight for the prime position near the female, presumably to increase their chances of mating. Fighting involves adversaries lunging at each other sometimes with their pleats extended to appear larger and a more fearful competitor, striking each other with their flukes.
Less dramatic forms of behaviour include lifting the head from the water while swimming, fluke slapping and releasing a stream of bubbles underwater (to presumably try and disorient an opponent). These contests can leave rivals bleeding with raw patches on their backs.
Breaching is another humpback whale behavior attracting attention by leaping clear out of the water. Various interpretations include, long distance communication, attracting attention to themselves so other whales know they are there or perhaps so boats know they are there, the males impressing a female during the mating season or simply having fun and playing.
Southern Right Whale – Eubalaena australis (Baleen)
So named the right whale because of its high oil yield and its very fine silky baleen that made it the “right” whale to hunt. It was heavily hunted for at least 300 years and is still rare today. Southern species are recovering well, the Northern species are still near collapse due to over hunting in the early 1800′s and 1900′s. Protected internationally since 1930.
The body is fat and stocky, and is distinctly recognized with its skin thickenings or callosities (home to specialised whale lice and barnacles) on the upper and lower jaws and above the eye. The callosity on the upper jaw is often called the bonnet. The Head is large comprising a quarter to a third of the body length. The jaw line is strongly curved and the flippers broad. No longitudinal gooves on the throat or belly. Two blowholes, V-shaped blow up to 5 meters.
The Southern Right Whale is often differentiated by having no dorsal fin as recognised on Humpbacks. The pectoral fins are paddle-shaped and the flukes are really long, narrow and pointed. The body of the young are some what paler, darkening in adults to black with white patches where skin has sloughed off. There are 225 to 250 baleen plates up to 2.2 metres long in each side of the upper jaw.
Size of calves are five to six metres long at birth with an average of fifteen metres at sexual maturity for males and sixteen metres for the females. Individuals up to 17.7 metres have been recorded. Calves are born in winter after a twelve month gestation period and are suckled until they reach about 8.5 metres in length. There appears to be a three year calving interval.
Southern Rights are slow swimmers that do not normally expose large amounts of body and breaching or leaping out of the water is infrequent in adults but can sometimes be seen as long sequences in the playful juveniles and young. Usually found singly, in pairs or in threes, with larger groups at good feeding grounds.
It was some time before experts realised that nearly all the animals close to shorelines were in fact pregnant females, who would come in close to give birth just beyond the wave breakers, said to protect them from the sharks in the deeper ocean others were mostly mothers with calves. Whalers in their day had no hesitation in killing the calves to make it easier to attack the mother, the combination of these two moralities along with catches on the high seas proved somewhat devastating in depletion their numbers.
Habitat – Widely distributed (though rare) throughout the Antarctic, Australia, New Zealand, Southern South America, South Africa and high latitudes of the Indian Ocean.
Diet – A selective feeder on small planktonic crustaceans, mainly copepods and krill.
Pygmy Right Whale – Caperea marginata (Baleen)
The Pygmy Right Whale has a distinct bowed mouth and appears to be an example of convergent evolution. Only distinctly related to the Right Whale, its body is more like a Minke or Brydes Whale, a lot smaller than the Humpback or Southern Right and has a sickle-shaped dorsal fin.
There are a number of structural differences that easily identify this species which include the rib cage and the presence of a dorsal fin (to warrant separation from the larger right whales which have no dorsal fin).
When swimming, the fin of the Pygmy Right projects in much that same position and appears very similar to the Minke Whale. In fact, unless the distinctive head appears from the water it is often misidentified as a Minke Whale. For this reason, it may well be that this species is not as rare as was first thought.
Rounded and small pectoral fins with broad flukes. There is no ridge on the back and there are only two, deep, well marked throat grooves. Colour is dark grey above becoming darker with age, fading to a light grey shade below. There are 230 yellowish-white baleen plates up to 70 centimetres long in each side of the upper jaw. Size average is 1.5 metres at birth to 6.1 metres and 4.5 tonnes at maturity. Females are again slightly larger than the males. There is not a lot known about reproduction but apparently it is a solitary species, though groups of up to 8 animals have been observed.
Known only in the Southern Hemisphere, from Australia and New Zealand to South Africa, Argentina, the Falkland Islands and the Coast north of Antarctica.
Samples of food in stranded Pygmy Whales included crustaceans (copepods) but nothing further is known.
Minke Whale – Balaenoptera acutorstrata – (Baleen)
The Minke Whale is the smallest of the rorquals. It has a pointed head with a lower protruding jaw and a simple prominent ridge from the tip of the upper jaw to the blowholes. A well shaped and graceful whale, black on the back from the beak to just behind the long, slender pectoral fins, blending to grey and black again at the flukes. The underside is white. A sickle shaped dorsal fin like the Pygmy Whale but distinctive white bands on the pectoral fins distinguish the two.
The flukes are thin but quite large with 50-70 throat grooves and 231-360 creamy white baleen plates up to roughly 20 centimetres long in each side of the upper jaw.
Calves are 3 metres at birth and grow to about 10 metres in length and 9 tonnes in weight. The gestation period is 10 months and young are suckled for less than 6 months. They reach sexual maturity at 6 years, when males are 7 metres and females slightly larger at 7.3 metres.
Minkes are primarily inshore solitary whales, found in coastal temperate waters of all oceans, sometimes seen at sea, where they breach spectacularly, exposing the entire body. Unlike the larger rorquals, there do not seem to be major coastal assemblages in the breeding season. In some waters such as Merimbula link to www.merimbulamarina.com
Minke Whales can be seen irregularly throughout the year with their distinctive white extending across the flipper and onto the shoulder region.
The diet consists of small schooling fishes such as herring and cod, squid and crustaceans.
Blue Whale – Balaenoptera musculus (Baleen)
The blue whale is the largest organism on this planet, pumping 9.7 tonnes of blood through its enormous body. Its hearts size equals that of a small car. Its mouth can be 6 metres long, and the flukes 4.5 metres from tip to tip. Its slender body is streamlined particularly near the chest and head. When the head protrudes like a broad pointed arch you can see a single central ridge from the tip to the blowhole. The dorsal fin is located well down the back where it marks the end of a ridge. The fin is sickle shaped.
Its pectoral fins are long and slender and curved on the leading edge, with the flukes relatively small. 300 or more baleen plates are located in each side of the upper jaw and the highly distensible throat has forty or more grooves.
The overall colour is a grey tone, with mottled light greyish spots. Cold water algae living on the belly may give a yellow tone.
Calves are an enormous 7.5 metres at birth and weigh 2.3 tonnes. They are born after 11 months gestation and suckle an estimated 380 litres of milk per day and gain 90 kilograms per day over a 7 month period. Sexual maturity is reached at 2-12 years. Average adult size is 22.5 metres in males and 24 metres in females, though Blue Whales were larger before whaling brought the species to the brink of distinction. The largest blue whale ever captured was 29.4 metres. Average adult weight is 100 tonnes or more.
Formally a widespread and common species, blue whales are found in small populations in open oceans which makes our sightings so exceptional and very rare. It took video footage, photographaphic tracking and a great deal of survey work before academics associates became intrigued with this rarity to our region. Study teams are hopeful this year, that like the last 3 previous years, the Blue Whale will on their annual pilgrimage.
Their diet consists of small krill supplemented by small school fishes and crustaceans in the Northern Hemisphere.
False Killer Whale – Pseudorca crassidens (toothed)
The False Killer Whale is typically dolphin like in shape being glossy black to dark grey in colour, however no distinct beak. The body is long and streamlined, with an extended tail stock. The pectoral fins have a distinctive hump on the leading edge, a pointed dorsal fin with slender and pointy flukes. The upper jaw overhangs the lower and there are 8-11 conical teeth in each side of both upper and lower jaws.
Calves are 1.8 metres at birth and appear to be born all times of year. They grow to around 5 metres in females and 6 in males at maturity. Highly social animals sometimes forming herds of several hundreds and found in tropical and temperate seas. Like short finned pilot whales, they have been observed swimming with bottlenose dolphins. The species does strand occasionally.
Although the False Killer Whale is responsive and playful in captivity, little is known of its reproductive biology. Almost exclusively feed on squid and fishes up to 60 centimetres in length. They have been observed attacking other dolphins and sick or young Humpback Whales.