Gray Whale
Eschrichtius robustus


Other Names: California Gray Whale, Devilfish, Mussel-digger, Scrag Whale

Habitat: Inshore

Status: Locally common

Population: c.15,000-25,000

Threats: Human disturbance, entanglement in fishing nets, pollution, and habitat destruction

Group Size: 1-3, larger congregations in some areas

Hump Position: Far behind center

Newborns: 14 -16 ft (4.5-5 m) , c.05 tons

Adults: 39 -46 ft (12-14 m), 15-35 tons

Diet: Krill or other crustaceans and occasionally fish

Baleen: 140-180 baleen plates on each side


Description

Hump:

- low hump

Flukes:

- frequently marked or scarred
- flukes large - up to 9 , ft (3 m) - in relation to body size
- convex, usually ragged, trailing edges
- distinct notch in middle
- pointed tips
- spots and rings from concentrations of whale lice
- scars common, caused by teeth of Killer Whales

Flippers:

- small, paddle-shaped flippers
- pointed tips

Head

- long, slender head, small in relation to body size
- long, slightly arched or straight mouth line
- arches between blowhole and snout
- blowholes open in shallow depression on top of head
- yellowish, coarse baleen with long, thick bristles
- right side often scarred from bottom-feeding

Throat:

- typically 2, but sometimes 3-7, V-shaped or parallel groves

Calves:

- born with wrinkles, which rapidly disappear after birth
- calf may be darker in color than adult
- no barnacles or lice
- usually born between January 5 and February 15 (peak around January 27)

Other characteristics:

- 6-12 "knuckles" between hump and flukes
- mottled gray coloration may appear slate blue or marbled white
- body encrusted with barnacles
- extent of white, yellow, or orange blotching varies considerably


Behavior

- active with spyhopping, lobtailing, and breaching are commonly observed
- enjoys surf-riding and frequently found in surf (especially at Baja California) in very shallow water
- may also lie on side at the surface and wave flipper in the air
- when migrating, typically blows 3 to 6 times (at 15- to 30-second intervals) before diving for 3 to 5 minutes
- cruising speed 2 to 5 knots
- dive sequence much more variable at feeding and breeding grounds: often changes course and may stay under for up to 18 minutes
- dives for food in water up to 395 ft (120 m) deep, but prefers much shallower water
- primarily a bottom-feeder
- when feeding, typically followed by clouds of mud stirred up from sea floor or coming from mouth during filtration
- may associate with several species of dolphin and Dall's Porpoise


Distribution

- shallow coastal waters of the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans
- found in Arctic feeding grounds April to November, and in Mexican breeding grounds December to April
- migrates south October to February, and north February to July
- main breeding lagoons in Mexico are: San Ignacio, Scammon's, and the Magdalena Bay complex (all on the Pacific coast of Baja California)
- small numbers summer in British Columbia, Canada, as well as Washington State, Oregon, and northern California



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This page was created by:Candice Orca Mottet