Humpback Whales

Latin Name: Megaptera novaeanglia

How often and when do we see them?

Humpback whales are seen only at certain times of the year in these waters. The most common time to sight these marine mammals tends to be from September to early December. This is the time they start to head south towards their breeding and birthing grounds.

Humpback Whale breaching, Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, BC

Size & Description

Humpbacks are huge marine mammals that reach up to 48-62.5ft (14.6-19m) in length and can weigh up to 40 tonnes.

In general, humpback whales are very distinctly coloured with a black body and white belly. One of their most distinctive features is the small hump on their back where a small dorsal fin is located.

One of the main ways in which an individual humpback whale is identified is by the underside of their tail (fluke), which is unique to each animal -- like a fingerprint. This tends to be exposed when the whale is about to go down for a deep/long dive.


The diet of these massive animals includes plankton, krill and small fish like herring.

Interesting Facts

Migration – During the winter period, these animals will embark on a long migration towards the equator to their respective breeding and birthing grounds, during which time they eat very little if not at all.

Song – Their song is the most complexly structured song in the animal kingdom! A song is believed to be about 10-12 minutes in length but they can sing repeatidly for hours. One report even stated that one male sang for 36 hours straight, took a short break then re-sang the exact same song again! The song is only sung by the males, and they sing while migrating to their breeding grounds and while at their breeding grounds. However, recent studies have shown Humpbacks vocalizing whilst migrating north back to their feeding grounds in Spring. The reason behind the song is thought to be the way a male will attract a potential mate.

Humpback descending for a long dive, Vancouver Island, BC

Threats & Conservation

Humpback whales are currently listed as Endangered on the ICUN red list. Early threats included hunting, as these animals are slow moving, which made them easy targets. They have been listed as protected since 1966 from the International Whaling Committee (IWC). The global population is at roughly 35,000 - 40,000, which is around 30-35% of the original population.

The population is growing and recovering quite well, and it has been reported that some populations in the Southern Hemisphere are actually doubling in size every 7 years!

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  • Seattle Float Plane Terminal
    1234 Wharf St.
    Victoria, BC
    V8W 3H9