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Humpback whale © Christopher Swann

Migration Patterns of Humpback Whales

Humpback whales complete some of the longest migrations of any mammal living on Earth. Some humpback whale populations make an annual round-trip journey of up to 10,000 miles or 16000 kilometres!

The two main reasons that whales migrate are to feed and to give birth. Every year, humpback whales follow regular migration routes from warm waters to cold waters and back.

During summers, humpback whales live in cool waters where they find plentiful food. They travel to tropical waters for the winter months, where they mate and give birth.

The map shows the migration routes for humpback whale populations living in different parts of the world.

Humpback whale migration map


What do they eat?

Humpbacks are baleen whales, they feed on krill (small shrimp-like creatures) and small fish such as herring, sand eels, and capelin.
Humpbacks are capable of eating 1 to 1.5 tons of their preferred seafood every day. However, they don't feed during the winter season due to the scarcity of food in the tropical waters where they migrate to breed and mate. During this period, they rely on their fat reserves stored in their blubber for sustenance.

Humpback Whale Fact File:

  • Size: 17m
  • Weight: 40 tons (40,000 kg)
  • Baby size: 4.5m and 900kg
  • Lifespan: 80 years
  • Reproduction: Females have only one baby every two to four years.
  • Where do they live? Humpback whales are found in all the world’s major oceans.
  • Why are they called humpback whales? They are named after the noticeable hump on their back underneath the dorsal fin.

About Alison Wood

Ali is WDC's Education coordinator. She also edits our children's magazine, Splash. She previously spent many years coordinating our research and conservation projects around the world. Her favourite species are river dolphins.

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