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FROM ORCAS TO HUMPBACKS: UNDERSTANDING WHALE BEHAVIOR ON A TOUR
March 20, 2023

FROM ORCAS TO HUMPBACKS: UNDERSTANDING WHALE BEHAVIOR ON A TOUR

Prince of Whales

It is always a thrill to observe whales in their natural habitat. From the majestic orcas to the awe-inspiring humpbacks, understanding their behavior on a tour can provide a wealth of knowledge about these magnificent creatures. In this blog post, we will explore the different behaviors of whales in three sections: migrating patterns, feeding behavior, and other commonly seen behaviors. Let’s dive in!

WHALE MIGRATING PATTERNS

Whales are known for their long migrations, and understanding their patterns can provide insights into their behavior. Different whale species migrate for different reasons, but the most common reason is for breeding and feeding. For example, humpback whales migrate from their feeding grounds in cold waters to warmer waters for mating and calving. In the North Pacific, their migration goes from Alaska to Hawaiߵi.

During the migration, whales can travel for thousands of miles, and they follow a specific route that has been passed down from generation to generation. This route is influenced by factors such as ocean currents, water temperature, and the availability of food. It is essential to respect the migration patterns of whales and avoid interfering with their natural behavior. Tour operators like us should follow responsible whale-watching practices, such as maintaining a safe distance, avoiding loud noises, and not blocking their path.

WHALES FEEDING BEHAVIOR

Whales are known for their impressive feeding behavior, and understanding how they feed can provide insights into their ecology. For example, humpback whales are filter feeders, and they feed on krill and small fish by opening their mouths wide and swimming through a school of prey. Orcas, on the other hand, are apex predators, and they use different hunting techniques to catch their prey. They work together in a group, or pod, to corral fish or marine mammals into a tight ball, making it easier to catch them. Hunting behavior will change based on the killer whale ecotype and their preferred prey, as Bigg’s orcas feed on marine mammals, while Resident orcas feed solely on fish. More on this topic here.

During a whale-watching tour, it is essential to understand the feeding behavior of whales to avoid disturbing their natural feeding process. It is incredible to watch killer whales and humpbacks hunt, and learn more about their feeding techniques like lunge feeding pictured here.

OTHER COMMON BEHAVIORS

Whales exhibit a range of other common behaviors that can be observed on a whale-watching tour. One of the most impressive behaviors is breaching, which is when a whale propels itself out of the water and lands back in with a loud splash. It is not entirely clear why whales breach, but it could be a form of communication, a way to remove parasites, or just for fun. We often can tell where whales are in the water through their spouts, coming from a behavior commonly called blowing. Blowing is when a whale emits a cloud of vapor when exhaling, that is mixed with salt water creating a big spout.

Whales often exhibit fluke displays, which occur when whales arch their backs and show their tail flukes as they dive underwater. Fluke displays when whales lift their tails out of the water can be used to identify individual whales. Orcas often spyhop, which happens when a whale raises its head out of the water to scan the surface. There are many other behaviors that whales and orcas display in the wild, and the best way to learn about them is to see them from your own eyes!

Whale-watching tours can be an excellent way to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Understanding their behavior can provide insights into their ecology and help promote responsible whale-watching practices. By following responsible practices and respecting their behavior, we can help protect these amazing creatures for generations to come. Find more information here and if you have any more questions, contact us!

Sea you soon!

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