Humpback whales have a stocky body and are the only whale with bumps known as tubercles on the top of their heads. Tubercles are actually enlarged hair follicles. You can easily see the tubercles on the humpback picture at the top of this page.
Humpback whales are known as rorquals, a subgroup of the Baleen whales. Baleen are long fibrous plates in the mouths of all baleen whales. These whales do not have teeth, but instead use the baleen plates to filter out their food such as krill (small shrimp like creatures) and small fish.
Size: Females up to 50 feet (15 meters) and males up to 45 feet (13.7 meters). Calves are 10-15 feet (3-4 meters) at birth. Adults weigh approximately 1 ton per foot of length so around 50 tons and calves are about 1 ton at birth. Adult Humpbacks are about the same size as a city bus.
Humpback whales are found in all subpolar oceans around the world. They feed in temperate and polar areas that are rich in nutrients and their favorite foods, krill and small fish. They migrate during the polar winters to tropical and subtropical waters to give birth and breed.
Here are some common behaviors that you are likely to see on your whale watching tour.
Humpback whales are known as the acrobats of the sea for putting a great show at the surface. Breaching (full out of water jumps) pec slaps (pectoral fin slapping),
Humpback whales are the 4th largest whale on earth. Their scientific name is
Megaptera novaeanglieae, which is Latin for Big wing from New England. They are called this as they have the longest pectoral (side) fins of any whale and were first discovered off the coast of New England.
Humpback Whales are known as the acrobats of the sea because they spend a lot of time at the surface putting on a fantastic show of pectoral fin or tail slapping, breaching, spy hopping or simply resting at the surface. Watching the humpbacks is one of the most satisfying species to watch because you never know when they might breach (jump) completely out of the water and they are often curious about the boats and come super close, sometimes even swim right under us to do a little people watching of their own.
Here is some information about Humpback whales to prepare you for your tour.
You are listening to the mysterious Humpback whale's song recorded on one of our tours in the Pearl Islands last year.
Male Humpback whales are often found in what we call Rowdy groups. Rowdy groups are a group of 3-10 males who compete and fight with each other for the attention of the females. They will often chase a lone female until a mating pair is selected and the lucky male leaves with the female. No one knows if it is the female or male who makes the choice. We do know that finding a Rowdy group guarantees a great show to watch.
A female can breed as early as 5 years old, but normally they do not give birth to their first calf until the age of 8 years old. The female is pregnant for 11 months. That means she will get pregnant here in Panama, migrate back to the polar region to feed before she arrives back here in our warm, shallow waters to give birth.
The calves will stay with the mother and nurse for approximately 1 year before they set out on their own. We have seen mothers with yearling calves but that is not normal. The mothers with newborn calves often spend a lot of time very close to shore, presumably to avoid potential predators and even the pushy Rowdy groups of males.
Humpback whales are known for their mysterious songs. The males are the ones who sing, and often do so hanging vertical and face down in the water. The songs last about 20 minutes long. The songs are only sung in the breeding areas. The fascinating part is that all the males in one region sing the exact same song, and males in other regions, such as Hawaii or Australia sing a different song. Each year the song changes a bit.
The song can be heard from as far as 20 miles away. We use a hydrophone to let you listen to the whale song. If we are close enough, it is easy to hear the whale's singing through the hull of the boat on the surface, but our favorite place to listen to this enchanting song is by diving in and floating on the surface.