If you are looking for some Humpback Whale facts for kids then look no further. These incredible mammals, the largest on Earth with the longest migration on the planet and the most hauntingly mysterious songs are beyond fascinating. So much so that we have rounded up as many interesting facts as we can about them. To find out all about these majestic animals of the deep then please, read on to learn all about Humpback Whales.
Table of Contents
Fun Humpback Whale Facts
- Humpback Whales get their common name from the hump on their back that is visible as they prepare to dive.
- Humpback Whale tail patterns are all unique.
- Humpback Whales have baleen plates instead of teeth.
- Humpback Whales hunt in groups, also known as pods.
- Humpback Whales grow up to 18.3 m long and 36.3 metric tons.
- Humpback Whales can live for 80 to 90 years.
- Humpback Whales are known for singing loud, complex “songs” – lasting up to 30 minutes long!
- Only male Humpback Whales “sing”
- Humpback Whale songs can last for hours!
- Humpback Whales migrate annually from summer feeding grounds near the poles to warmer winter breeding waters closer to the Equator.
- Humpback Whales can be found in the North Pacific, Atlantic, Southern Ocean, and Indian Ocean.
- Humpback Whales have the longest migration on the planet.
- Humpback Whales are powerful swimmers.
- Humpback Whales use their massive tail fin, called a fluke, to propel themselves through the water and sometimes completely out of it.
- Humpback Whales often “breach”. This is when the whales leap from the water before landing with a massive splash.
- Humpback Whale babies are called calves.
- Female Humpback Whales nurse their calves for almost a year.
- Calves do not stop growing until they are ten years old.
The Humpback Whale Migration
Did you know that Humpback Whales have the longest migration of any animal on our planet? Every year in January, around 60,000 Humpback Whales leave the cool, food-rich waters of Antarctica and begin a 5,000km, three-month journey to the much warmer waters found up and down the coast of Queensland. It is here that they mate and give birth to their offspring.
Every year, we have big celebrations along the eastern coast of Australia when these magnificent animals put on an impressive show and ‘whale watching’ becomes a much-loved event.
Around 25,000 of them diverge around Tasmania and head up the east coast of Australia to Hervey Bay in Queensland. The other 35,000 or so travel up the west coast of Australia as far as Broome and the Kimberley.
The Lifecycle of the Humpback Whale
The reason why Humpback Whales migrate to warmer waters each year is to give birth to their young. Baby humpback whales have a greater chance of survival if born in warmer waters.
Although they are babies, they are still extremely large when born. A baby humpback whale, or calf, can weigh as much as a tonne and are usually around 3-5 metres long! A baby will stay with their mum for the first year of their life and will feed on her high-fat milk for 5 – 12 months. By drinking this nutrient-rich milk, the babies grow very fast. Both mum and bub will stay in the warmer waters until the baby is fully grown (to about 8-9 metres).
Once they are on their own, adolescent humpbacks will start to travel in pairs or groups, where their primary goal is to eat. They do this by filter feeding through their baleen plates (they don’t have teeth!).
At around 6-10 years of age, the humpbacks start breeding. To attract a mate, the males put on a pretty impressive display of breaching, blowing bubbles, singing, and sometimes fighting with other males. Baby whales are then born a year later, at around the time they have completed their long swim back to the warmer waters.
An adult female humpback does not give birth every single year, but typically every two or three years.
Humpback Whale Diet
Humpback Whales are carnivorous, meaning they eat meat. Although they are such huge animals, the size of animals they prey on is actually rather small. They love to feed on krill, small crustaceans and schooling fish.
The Humpback Whale “Song”
One of the things that Humpback Whales are most well-known for is their song. They are known to sing a haunting tune beneath the waves and tend to sing the same song, specific to their location. Although the tend to sing the same type of song, it does have variations and changes year-to-year so that it is never exactly the same all the time.
Scientists are actually still not sure what the main reason for their song is. Performed only by the males, they did at one stage think it might be for mating, but this has not been confirmed. The ‘songs’ tend to last between 10 – 30 minutes long, but some have been known to go for hours! They are actually quite complex in their sounds and, as far as we know, humpback whales are the only animals, other than humans to create such complex, hierarchal patterns of sound.
In any given area, in any given period of time, all singers will perform nearly identical versions of the song. Sometimes the song will only change slightly, whereas in other years, the song is almost unrecognisable. Regardless of the scale of change, however, all singers within the same geographical region will adopt the same adjustments.
No wonder whale song fascinates people the world over!
Are Humpback Whales Endangered?
In the 1800s and early 1900s, commercial whaling almost drove the species to extinction. In 1970, the humpback whale was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act.
However since the 1980s, when the practice of commercial whaling largely ended, the population has substantially grown. In fact, in 2022, Humpback Whales were removed from Australia’s threatened-species list, after the government’s independent scientific panel on threatened species deemed the mammals had made a major recovery.
Australia’s Humpback Whale population has increased from an estimated critically low 200 animals when commercial whaling ceased in the 1960s to around 60,000 – and is increasing at around 10 to 11.5 per cent per year.
Where to see Humpback Whales near Brisbane
Living where we do means we literally have front-row seats to the whales’ spectacular mating and breeding display right at our doorstep. Seeing as they do this in the warm waters up and down the eastern coast of Queensland, there are many tours you can go on that will guarantee seeing them up close or you may even be able to view them from some shores.
Generally, the best time to see humpback whales on the East Coast is between May and November each year. This is the best time to see the humpback whale migration as they often have calves and swim close to the shore in order to protect the calves from predators.
The best places to see humpback whales in Queensland are considered to be the Sunshine Coast, The Great Barrier Reef, and Hervey Bay. If you want to see Humpback Whales from the shoreline, then North Stradbroke is the best place to do this. see humpback whales from the shoreline.
If you loved reading these facts about the Humpback Whale then you can check out a whole range of other interesting and fun animal facts for kids here.
Find out where to see Whales from the land in Brisbane so you can experience the wonder of the whale migration!