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Common Whale Behaviours

 

Blowing

Whales exhale air from the blowholes on top of their heads at great pressure, causing moisture in their breath to condense and create a cloud or “blow”. Southern Rights have a distinctive V-shaped bushy blow and usually blow every minute or so after being submerged.

Common whale behaviours
SRW – V Shaped Blow
Common whale behaviours
Southern Right Whale Blow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spyhopping

The eyes are set low down in Southern Right Whales because their natural predators and hazards come from below. However, they can lift their head and eyes above the surface when they want to have a look around. This is called spy hopping.

Common whale behaviours
Spyhopping Top View
Common whale behaviours
Spyhopping Bottom View

 

 

 

 

Breaching

Whales most spectacular activity is when they launch themselves up out of the water then twist and fall back down. This is called breaching, and it is believed they do this for several reasons … to communicate, dislodge parasites, get a higher view, drive off predators or just play. Southern Rights usually only breach about three quarters of their bodies out of the water, but others such as Humpbacks can actually jump clear.

Common whale behaviours
Southern Right Whale Breaching
Common whale behaviours
Breaching – Splash

 

 

 

 

 

Lobtailing

Tail flukes measure up to 5m across and weigh several tonnes. Whales will often lift them out of the water then back down hard with a loud crack and lots of spray. This is called lobtailing, and is done for several reasons … to communicate, cool down, drive off predators or just for fun.

Common whale behaviours
Lobtailing
Common whale behaviours
SRW Fluke – Lobtailing

 

Pec Slaps

A less strenuous way for whales to communicate, is to lay on their side at the surface and slap the water with their pectoral fin.

Common whale behaviours
Poised for a Pec Slap
Common whale behaviours
Preparing to slap pectoral fin

Body Rolls

Whales frequently lay upside down, rolling on the surface with their pectoral fins stuck out for balance. There are various reasons for this … to simply rest or stretch; or, if a female, to avoid the demands of a hungry calf, or the advances of males during courtship.

Common whale behaviours
Full body roll
Common whale behaviours
About to roll

Tail Lifts

Whales are able to suspend their tails above the water for quite long periods by dropping their heads and maintaining position with their pectoral fins. There are several reasons for this … to just rest, study the area around and below it or catch the wind and actually sail along. Also, if a female, to avoid the demands of a hungry calf, or the advances of males during courtship.

Common whale behaviours
Southern Right Whale Tail Lift
Common whale behaviours
Tail Lifting

Other Whale Behaviours

Deep Diving: When whales wish to dive deeply or quickly, they will drop their heads and lift their tails out of the water, then swim straight down.

Play: Southern Right whales have been observed playing with other species such as seals and dolphins, they have also been known to lift kelp or seaweed from the sea floor and toss it into the air.

Mating: A number of males attempt to mate with each female. She may take evasive action by fleeing into shallow waters or rolling onto her back. Mating is a very brief exercise for Southern Right whales.