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Humpback Whale - Megaptera novaeangliae
Photo by Doug Perrine/HWRF

In spite of their large size, humpback whales are very acrobatic and may be seen breaching and slapping their tail or pectoral fins repeatedly. They occasionally lie on their side or back holding one or both of their lengthy pectoral fins in the air. Humpbacks are highly inquisitive and will readily approach vessels. Sometimes they employ an impressive feeding technique called "bubble netting" for capturing huge amounts of fish by blowing "nets" of bubbles to corral and trap fish near the surface. Males are well known for singing the longest and most complex sounds found in the animal kingdom.

Humpback Whale
(Megaptera novaeangliae)

The distribution of humpback whales is global, but the animals visiting Hawaii are part of the North Pacific stock that are believed to spend their summers feeding off southeastern Alaska

Both inshore and offshore

Krill and small fish (often pacific herring)


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
Humpback whales come to Hawaii to breed and calf, and rarely feed during their entire stay.

Learn More
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- The National Marine Mammal Laboratory
- Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale NMS