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Humpback Whale - Megaptera novaeangliae
Photo by Howard Hall

In spite of their large size, humpback whales are very acrobatic and may breach, lobtail, and fin slap repeatedly. They are often seen lying 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 boats. 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)

Worldwide distribution with two stocks in the north Atlantic Ocean and two stocks in the north Pacific ocean

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
The western north Atlantic population of humpback whales is the healthiest population of humpbacks.

Learn More
- The National Marine Mammal Laboratory
- Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology