Whales

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Whales (cetaceans) are air-breathing leviathans that cruise our coast.

Species Description
Gray Whale

Photo by Dean Schuler
The Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus, also known as E. gibbous), is one of the smaller baleen whales. It's known for its lumpy surface, due to whale lice and barnacles that become attached. This whale migrates from the Bering Sea in November through February to the birthing grounds in warmer Baja waters. The return voyage to the Bering starts in late February and continues well into June. (The times of migration vary year to year.) The blow is only about 10 feet tall and heart-shaped. These are the most dependable for whale watchers as they travel closer to shore with calves on their return to the Bering. Juveniles and lone grays often feed along our coast when the krill bloom is robust.
Humpback Whale

Photo by Bonnie Plakos
The Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a baleen whale with large pleated pouch under its jaw for scooping krill and then pushing water out of the baleen. Its preferred breeding and birthing grounds are in Hawaiian warm waters, but it forages into the arctic.Occasionally their migratory pattern brings them out to our coast instead of up the western Pacific. A large whale, it has a pronounced but small hump on the dorsal surface, mostly seen as it deep dives or sounds.
Blue Whale

Photo by Craig Tooley
craigtooley@me.com 
The Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest of the baleen whales. The name comes from the smooth skin with a bluish cast. Seen from shore, the blow is the defining feature, as it can be 20 feet high. These whales move along the coast to northern feeding grounds in spring, but to warmer waters in summer. Whales are often seen in small groups, or adult and calf alone, as pictured here from the air. It forages krill and small fish and holds the catch in the mouth, while it expells the sea water through the baleen plates. Blues are still considered endangered and ship strikes are increasing as numbers start to rebound.

See which months these species may be seen
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