Humpback Whale

These playful leviathans are the musicians of the sea.

Humpback Whale








Even-toed ungulate






Humpback Whales are one of the largest species of baleen whale, averaging a length of 1 to 16 metres and weighing 25 to 30 metric tons. Named for the small hump on their dorsal fin, humpback whales are known for their complex breaching behaviours that make them popular with whale watchers.  

#Habitat and diet

Humpback Whales can be found in the North Pacific, Atlantic, Southern Ocean, and Indian Ocean. Though these whales do not often cross the equator, they have been observed at Cape Verde, meaning there could be a population in the lower hemisphere.  

These playful creatures live off their blubber in the colder months, only hunting in summer. They are carnivorous, eating mostly krill, small crustaceans, and schooling fish. They have several hunting techniques: direct attack, stunning with a slap to the water, or creating a ‘bubble net’ around their prey.  


Humpback Whales are intelligent, with brains weighing up to a ton. They can travel over 25,000km and remember locations, can organise hunting group techniques, and have been known to play with and protect other species such as dolphins, seals, smaller whales, and humans. There is some scientific evidence to suggest that these whales may be able to recognise and remember certain humans and other species.  

Humpback 'talk' by slapping their tails on the waters surface

Humpback 'talk' by slapping their tails on the waters surface

#Humpback Whale facts


Humpback calves interact with their mothers by brushing fins and whispering.


Humpbacks have been observed to gather in large super-groups, though the reason why is unknown.


Before 1996, the Humpback whale population fell by 90%, after being hunted so heavily.


The Humpback’s species name, Megaptera novaeangliae, means “New Englander”, as it was first spotted off the coast of New England.


Humpback whales sing the same song, specific to their location. This song changes over the years and is never the same as it was before.

#Behaviour and Reproduction

Humpback Whales have elaborate courtship rituals, which take place in the winter. Males form competing groups around females they want to mate with. They compete by song, breaching, charging, sparring, tail- and fin-slapping, and elaborately moving. As males are unsuccessful, they leave the group. Female humpback whales breed every 2 to 3 years and have more than one male partner over their lifetimes. Humpback whales have hybridized with other whale species, such as blue whales.  

Humpback Whales exhibit a range of behaviours. Singing, breaching and jumping, slapping their tails, congregating, group hunting, and playing with other animals are just some of the playful activities these unique creatures engage in.


Due to bans on whaling, humpback whales have increased in number and are not considered endangered. However, individual humpbacks are still threatened by ship collisions, fishing gear, and noise pollution.

#IUCN Red List status

The Humpback is listed as least concerned (population trend increasing) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.


Least concern ↑

You can help

#You can help

The resurgence of the Humpback Whale is a true success story for the Reef. Donate today and protect this population for future generations.