To hear a humpback whale overture -- sound I (907K)
and sound II (1443K).
Also dueling humpbacks -- sound III (1821K).
Humpbacks occur in all oceans of both hemispheres. In the northwest
Atlantic, they are found off the West Indies in winter and near Bermuda in
spring. Most start returning to Newfoundland in April. In summer,
sightings are common near shore around the Avalon Peninsula and on the
northeast coast, especially from June to August. In the fall, usually by
late October, most humpbacks have moved offshore and headed south.
Born in the Caribbean, a humpback calf is about 5 m long and weighs
2 tons. When weaned about 11 months later, it will be 8-9 m long. It is
sexually mature at a length of 11 m, and a weight of 30-40 tons. A mature
female humpback usually calves about every two years, and a humpback may
live for 30 years.
Humpback whale slamming on the water -- mpeg movie (345K).
Humpbacks feed in northern waters in summer, then migrate south to
mate and calve in the winter months, during which time they generally do
not feed. When on the breeding grounds in winter, male humpbacks make
long, beautiful, complicated vocalizations. These songs probably have a
role in mating rituals. Humpbacks also produce a variety of social vocaliza-
tions in addition to songs, which are low in frequency and somewhat
resemble the sounds of a domestic pig.
Humpback whale slapping the water -- mpeg movie (1186K).
For reasons which are poorly understood, humpbacks engage in a variety
of behaviours. They may breach (leap into the air), or lobtail (strike their
flukes on the surface of the water). They also lie on their sides and roll,
waving their huge white flippers in the air and slapping the water.
Humpback whale waving its white flipper in
the air -- mpeg movie (737K).
The undersides of the flukes have unique patterns of black and white,
which make it possible to recognize individual animals. At present, about
1800 individual animals in the northwest Atlantic have been identified by
Whaling quickly depleted humpback numbers, and commercial whal-
ing for this species stopped worldwide in 1955. The present Northwest
Atlantic population is about 3,000-4,000 animals. Humpbacks are still
considered an endangered species.