There are a couple of whales that migrate off the eastern shores of Florida. Be sure to watch for the Humpback and Right Whales as they migrate in the early months each year. You can even occasionally spot them while walking on the beach during spring break. Other large whales that are found in Florida’s water, but not necessarily near shore, are Fin Whales and Sperm Whales.
Today I am gonna talk about humpback whales. FYI this is an endangered species.
Humpback Whales migrate along the gulf stream, which is similar to I-95 interstate for marine life, to the Caribbean in autumn and winter months to breed These majestic creatures live and feed in the northern waters from Iceland to Cape Cod the rest of the time. I have been privileged and blessed to see them on several field trips while growing up in Connecticut off the shores between Newport and Long island. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in these chilly polar waters then they migrate to the tropical waters if the Caribbean to breed. During the winter and breeding, they live off their accumulated fat stores.
The humpback gestation period is approximately 11 months. Newborn humpbacks are born 4.6 m in length and weigh about 1.3 metric tons. They are roughly the length of their mother’s head. They will nurse for 5-6 months. Sexual maturity is reached at 2-5 years, at which time the young whales measure about 12 m in length. Physical maturity doesn’t occurs until they reach at 12-15 years of age. Females breed only every other year which adds speculation to why they may be reaching extinction.
These incredible babies nurse for approximately six months, then mix nursing and independent feeding for what is rumored another six months more. Humpback moms milk is 50% fat and pink in color which is just what these huge babes need.
Humpback whales often congregate in groups of 20-30 to perhaps 100-200. They are among the most acrobatic and visible of whales and breach completely out of water in spectacular displays of strength, humping their back into an arch. Hence their name. Humpbacks commonly slap their tail flukes or flippers on the water’s surface and occasionally lift their huge heads above water to peer about, a behavior known as “spyhopping.” Tail slapping, breaching, and other such behaviors may serve in communication between the whales, possibly as warnings or a means of indicating location.
Humpbacks also produce a number of unusual sounds described variously as moans, groans, cries, squeals, chirps, and clicks. Sounds may be arranged into complex and predictable patterns known as “songs.” These songs may last 10-20 minutes and are often repeated for hours at a time. Humpback songs may be repeated for long periods of time and have been most often recorded on low latitude breeding grounds. Although yet to be proven, songs are thought to be broadcast by sexually mature, lone males and may have some purpose in mating rituals.
I am going to pay careful attention to the ocean while walking the beach this time of year, I hadn’t thought about it the other day while having low tide happy ours cocktails with my fave person and fabulous hubby, Rich.