Gray Whale Facts

How did gray whales get their name?

The gray whale acquired its name from the gray patches and white mottling on its skin.

What does the gray whales skin feel like?

The skin has scratch marks and patches of white barnacles, and orange whale lice. A whale’s skin feels like a peeled hard-boiled egg. Most of the adult grays have scars and tooth-rake marks from encounters with Orcas. Light gray or white scars show where the whale barnacles have fallen off. Young whales have barnacle patches soon after they are born.

How big are gray whales?

Adult males can reach a length of 45 feet, adult females are slightly larger, and reach about 50 feet in length. Both sexes weigh up to 30-40 tons. The gray whale’s flukes or tail can span up to 10 feet.

Do gray whales sing?

Gray whales make gurgles and warbling sounds, but nobody really understands what these sounds mean.

Do gray whales sleep?

This is what some scientists say, the whales do not stop swimming during migration, but think they may sleep and continue swimming on “autopilot.” Others say the whales take short naps of 10-20 minutes.

How can I recognize a gray whale?

Gray whales have streamlined bodies with narrow, tapered heads with the upper jaw slightly overlapping the lower jaw. The gray whale has no dorsal (top) fin, but, about 2/3 of the way back on the body is a prominent dorsal hump; this is followed by 6-12 knuckles along the dorsal ridge that extend to the fluke (tail). Its fluke is about 10 feet across, pointed at the tips, and deeply notched in the center; there are also 2-5 grooves on the ventral throat.

How big are gray whales eyes?

An adult’s eyes are just above their mouth outline and are about the size of baseball, they are located about 8 feet from the tip of the gray whale’s head. They also have eye lids, I have also talked to some scientist that say you can tell the age of a gray whale by the protein in their eyes (during an autopsy to determine the cause of death).

How long can a gray whale stay under water without coming up for air?

An adult gray whale can stay submerged up to 20-30 minutes.

Do gray whales have teeth?

No, the gray whale is in the sub-order Mysticeti; the Mysticeti whales have a baleen instead of teeth.

Are gray whales friendly?

Visitors to the calving and breeding lagoons sometimes encounter the “friendliest,” gray whales that come up to the small boats and let people touch them.

How long does a gray whale live?

Grays whales live about 40 to 60 years, some can live 70 years.

At what age do gray whale’s mate and breed?

Gray whales reach sexual maturity somewhere between 5 and 11 years of age, a gray whale that lives to be 40 years old could have as many as 18 calves.

How long is a gray whale’s pregnancy?

Gestation is 11-12 months; migration and reproduction are connected, since it is best for the mothers to reach warm waters before giving birth. Gray whales have a special adaptation called delayed implantation; the embryo does not start developing in the mother’s body until a few months after she becomes pregnant. After mating in the lagoons (or during migration), the newly pregnant female returns to the arctic feeding waters on spring’s journey north. She feasts for herself and her unborn baby and migrates south in fall or winter to the nursery lagoons to give birth. By the time she reaches the warm lagoons, the baby has been developing for 11-12 months and is ready for birth. A female usually has one calf every two years.

What do newborn calves look like?

Newborns are dark gray to black, some may have distinctive white markings, and a calf weighs between 1,100-1,500 pounds. Babies weigh between 1,500-2,000 pounds when they are about 15 feet long.

What do baby gray whales eat?

Whales are mammals, so calves nurse on their mother’s milk; they nurse between 6 to 8 months. They will drink about 50 gallons of mother’s milk each day, whale milk is extraordinarily rich, , about 53% fat, and (Human milk is about 2% fat.)

Where are baby gray whales born?

Mating and calving occur mainly in the lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, the shallow, warm lagoons are great nurseries. Calving and mating are sometimes seen during the migration.

What makes the lagoons good nurseries?

The lagoons are safe from hungry orca’s whales (killer of whales). The warm water helps the calves stay warm until they gain blubber, also the salty water makes the babies more buoyant, so it is easier for them to nurse.

Why do mothers and calves stay in the lagoons for 2-3 months?

It allows the calves to build up a thick layer of blubber, they need blubber for energy to swim during the northward migration, and blubber keeps them warm in the colder waters.

Are whale’s good mothers?

Yes, mothers are very protective of their calves; they earned the name “Devilfish” because of their violence towards whalers who killed their babies.

What happens when a baby whale is born underwater?

The mother supports her calf at the surface for its first few breaths of air; she then brings the baby up to the surface with her own back and flukes.

When are gray whale calves born?

Calves are usually born in late December to early February in the lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, more than half of the births occur in Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

How big are baby gray whales when they are born?

Calves can gain 60 to 70 pounds every day on their mother’s milk; they can reach 18 to19 feet in length in their first 3 months of life.

Can baby whales swim right away?

Within about three hours of birth, a calf can keep itself afloat and swim on a steady course, a calf may rest on its mothers back or fins until it becomes a stronger swimmer.

What do gray whales eat?

Gray whales feed on small crustaceans such as amphipods, and tube worms found in bottom sediments, they can eat a ton a day of shrimp like amphipods. Gray whales are like cattle on an open range, they travel wherever they can find food. I have seen the resident grays whales off Depoe Bay feed for weeks in one area, then move 1-2 miles and feed for a month.

How do gray whales eat?

Since gray whales have no teeth, they capture and strain their baleen, which hangs from the roof of the mouth; grays are the only bottom feeding whales. When they feed, a whale dives to the bottom, rolls on its right side and gulps mouthfuls of mud from the bottom. As the whale closes its mouth, water and sediments squirt out through the baleen plates. This leaves the amphipods stuck to the baleen inside their mouths. Whales then use their tongues to loosen the amphipods from the baleen, and swallow.

What are baleen plates?

Baleen whales have a series of 130-180 fringed, overlapping baleen plates hanging like curtains from each side of the upper jaw. Baleen is made of a fingernail-like material called keratin. The plates are off-white and about 2-10-inch-long. Baleen plates filter water out and trap food in, the baleen is replaced about every 5 years.

How fast do gray whales travel during migration?

Gray whales cover about 100 miles a day; they can travel from Unimak Pass in Alaska to Baja California in an average of 50-60 days.

Do all gray whales migrate?

No, some gray whales are found year-round on the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. When do gray whales make their yearly migration? In October, the whales begin to leave their feeding grounds, they swim south during the fall and winter to their mating and calving lagoons in Baja California, Mexico. The southward journey takes around 2-3 months. The whales return north during the late winter and spring (mid-February to early June).

How do the whales know when to migrate?

There are several reasons; there are fewer hours of daylight, changes in water temperature, and changes in food supply as the northern pack ice increases.

How fast do gray whales travel?

They travel about 3-6 miles per hour.

Do all the whales go at the same time?

Gray whales travel in groups, first to go south are the pregnant cows, the other adults and juveniles will follow about a month later. When whales head back north the last to leave are the new mothers and calves.

Why do gray whales migrate along the coast?

The coastline may help them navigate the long distance, and being benthic (bottom) feeders, they have evolved with an orientation toward the seafloor where their food is located.

How far from the coast do they usually travel?

Along the coast of Oregon, gray whales will migrate within 2-5 miles of the shore. Gray whales may pay more attention to water depth than distance from shore.

Do whales eat while in their winter breeding grounds?

Little, during the months of migrating and socializing in the lagoons of Baja California, gray whales survive almost on their fat reserves built up in the summer feeding grounds. Some observers believe that gray whales eat nothing from the time they leave the Arctic.

Do gray whales lose a lot of weight while in their breeding grounds?

A 30-ton whale will expend so much energy on the migration to the Baja lagoons that it may lose 10-13 tons of its blubber; it eats little or nothing in the breeding grounds. But by early summer, most gray whales are heading back to the northern feeding grounds. Over the next five months they will gain back an estimated 15 to 30 percent of their total body weight.

Are gray whales an endangered species?

The gray whale was removed from the endangered species list in 1994.

What are a gray whale’s enemies?

Orca Whales / Killer of Whales

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