The Humpback Whale is one of the most distinctive looking whales common to Oregon coastal waters. These animals are tremendously large, growing over fifty feet (16 m) in length. They are mostly black or dark gray in color, sometimes with a light gray belly. The whale has a large lower jaw and a mouth filled with baleen, a filtering structure used to strain krill from ocean water. The whale’s head appears slender when seen in profile and is usually covered with knobs, projections and barnacles. Humpbacks also have a small dorsal fin and massive side flippers with scalloped edges.
An energetic species, Humpbacks are well known for their breaching behaviors – where the animal flings itself partially out of the water. Although Humpbacks were once seen in most of the world’s oceans, they were widely slaughtered by whalers and their numbers dwindled. Thanks to a worldwide ban on whaling (still ignored by a handful of nations), the Humpbacks’ numbers are slowly climbing but it is still considered endangered.
The Humpback Whale is a migratory animal and will travel from the Arctic waters between Alaska and Siberia to southern Mexico. They generally move along the coastlines, usually on the continental shelf or island banks. Sometimes, depending mostly on food availability, they will move out into the open sea. They generally pass through Oregon coastal waters in December and March as part of this migration pattern. Additional information on the whales’ migration and whale watching activities can be found by clicking here.