About Grey Whales

Class: Mammals
Sub-Order: Mysticeti (baleen whale)
Species: Grey Whale (Eschrictius robustus)
Color: Mottled light to dark grey
Length: Up to 45 feet
Weight: Up to 40 tons
Pectoral Flippers: Two (used for steering)
Teeth: 0 (uses baleen to strain food)
Dorsal Fin: 0 (has ridges or bumps)
Food: amphipods (shrimplike), mollusks, tube worms, fish and squid.
Parasites: lice (yellow), barnacles (white)
These types of parasites are found only on the Grey Whale.
Average Speed: 5 mph, maximum 10 mph.
Gestation Period: 13 months.
Sexual maturity: About 5 years old.
Average lifespan: 60 years old.
Oldest recorded: 77 years old.

Grey whales have the longest migration period of any animal, about 12,000 miles round-trip. In the winter, they travel south from their summer home in Alaska to the warm waters of Baja California, where the pregnant females give birth to a single calf weighing about 1500 to 2000 lbs and about 12 to 15 feet long. The calves nurse for up to 7 months and can reach a length of 28 feet in their first year, gaining up to 100 lbs. a day from the rich milk.

Grey whales eat only occasionally during their migration and can lose up to 1/3 its body weight on their journey. They feed by scooping up mud on the ocean bottom and filtering it through their baleen plates to find small bottom-dwelling creatures.

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Whale behaviors you may see include:

  • Spouting: When the whale surfaces, it exhales through its blowhole and you’ll see this as what looks like a puff of smoke. There she blows!
  • Sounding: Just before a whale dives, it may arch its back and flip its flukes (tail) up in the air. This is a great time to photograph the whale, but can be difficult to catch. A migrating Gray Whale usually spouts about and makes 3 to 4 short dives lasting about one to three minutes, then sounds and makes a longer dive of five to fifteen minutes.
  • Snorkeling: When a whale barely breaks the surface of the water when it comes up to breathe.
  • Spyhopping:. This is when the whale sticks its head vertically out of the water as if to take a look around.
  • Breaching: This is when a whale suddenly leaps out of the water. It seems to be a joyous display.