Whale facts

The Humpback whale is a member of the rorqual group of whales (also known as baleen whales) that include well know cousins such as the Blue Whale, Fin Whale and Minke Whale among others.

The common identifiers of rorqual whales are:

  • the dorsal fins on their backs
  • the ventral pleats which run from the jaw to the navel, and
  • their characteristic baleen plates which they use to sieve the krill upon which the feed
humpback whale anatomy info graphic

It's easy to identify Humpback's by their small dorsal fin and the way they arch their backs as they dive, this is how they got their name. Other distinct characteristics include long pectoral fins and the black and white markings on their underside which are unique to each individual whale.

They are well known as friendly, curious and playful. They will regularly approach within meters, even inches of whale watching vessels! One of the most common behaviours you will witness on a whale watching cruise is a humpback whale breaching. This is when the whale leaps clear of the water, rolling mid-air with their huge pectoral fins outstretched before crashing back into the water with an almighty splash.

The Humpbacks are the highlight of the annual whale migration along the East coast of Australia. Each winter between June and November the humpbacks migrate from the cold Antarctic waters, via New Zealand, North to the warmer tropical waters close to the equator.

Humpback Whale quick facts

  • Adults Humpback whales measure 14m - 18m
  • New Humpback calves are about 4m to 5m
  • Adults whales weigh up to 50 tonnes!
  • Whales swim at about 8km per hour
  • Humpback gestation period is 11months
  • Whale calves reach maturity between 12 to 15 years old
  • Mating and calving season coincides with annual migration - June to October