The humpback whale, a species of baleen whale, are favorites among whale-watchers because of their frequent aerial displays. They can often be seen breaching (jumping out of the water) or slapping the water's surface with their pectoral fins, tails, or heads. The whales are mostly gray and can weigh between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds (22,000 and 36,000 kilograms). A humpback whale's body can grow to 60 feet (18 meters) long, with females growing slightly longer than males.
Although humpback whales can swim to any coastline in the United States, only Hawaii and Alaska have large populations of humpback whales appearing regularly each year. From December to March, Pacific humpback whales call the waters around the Hawaiian Islands home. They feed and breed off the warm coast. On a clear day with a pair of binoculars, one can spot a humpback whale from the shore.
Humpback whales can be seen offshore from all the Hawaiian Islands in winter. The Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary is the waters around the Big Island, Maui, Kaua’i, and O’ahu to 600 feet in depth. In Alaska, look for the whales in summer around the entire southern coast.
Humpback whales can eat up to 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of food each day. Most of the food is tiny crustaceans (such as krill), plankton, and small fish.
At the beginning of spring, the Pacific humpback whale population begins their 3,000-mile journey to their summer feeding grounds off the Alaskan coast. It is one of the longest migrations in the animal world. The humpback whales will feed around Alaska all summer then make the reverse migration back to Hawaii. They go months without eating, only living on stored fat reserves.
The humpback whale is federally listed as endangered. Threats to these whales include entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, whale watch harassment, habitat impacts, and harvest.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary has a yearly sanctuary ocean count for volunteers. Volunteers go to select viewing locations and watch for the whales and behavior.
The crisis isn't just a global problem—we're facing it in our own backyards. Meet some of the species that are already seeing an impact.Read More
President and CEO Collin O’Mara reveals in a TEDx Talk why it is essential to connect our children and future generations with wildlife and the outdoors—and how doing so is good for our health, economy, and environment.Watch Now
What's on deck with the National Wildlife Federation? Check out our scheduled events—we just might be coming to a city near you!See Events
Place your order today for the themed box that delivers everything you need to create family memories while discovering nature and wildlife.Learn More
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.