Whales in Long Island Sound
Photo Credit: Dan Lent. (Taken off Stamford, Sept. 12, 2015)
Common Name: Humpback Whale
Latin Name: Megaptera novaengliae
Length/weight: up to 60 feet, but more commonly 45 feet (females are generally larger than males); 25 to 40 tons!
Range: Humpbacks live in all major oceans, from the equator to sub-polar latitudes. They migrate seasonally, and sometimes over incredibly long distances. Feeding grounds are in cold productive coastal waters.
Diet: They're a balleen whale that filter-feeds, so tiny crustaceans (mostly krill), plankton, small fish. They can eat up to 3,000 pounds of food a day.
Predators: Orcas and large sharks may take humpback calves. Larger threats are human: entanglement in fishing lines and being hit by ships.
Description: Humpbacks are known for their long pectoral fins. (Their scientific name means "big-winged New Englander.") They're primarily dark grey, but individuals have a variable amount of white on their pectoral fins and belly. This variation is so distinctive that the pigmentation pattern on the undersides of their "flukes" (tail fins) is used to identify individual whales, similar to a human fingerprint. Humpbacks are also know for their spectacular breaching displays ... launching themselves almost entirely out of the water ... and for the males' fascinating "songs."