Humpback Whale Breaching: Fun Facts All Whale Watchers Will Love!

Christian Mba
Oct 24, 2023 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Nov 15, 2021
Humpback Whale Calf.

The sight of a humpback whale launching itself out of the ocean against the horizon of the sky is a classic movie shot but do you know what this act is called?

The humpback's body morphology is unusual, with lengthy pectoral fins and also a knobbly head. The humpback whales are just a favorite among whale-watchers possibly because these animals may be seen close to shore and frequently exhibit activity at the water surface, such as breaching and other characteristic surface activities.

The humpback whales, or simply "humpbacks," are a greatly migratory species that can be found in all of the world's seas and are one of the most well-known cetacean species.

The hump on the back of the humpback whale is what gives it its name. The pectoral fins, stomachs, and undersides of the flukes of the humpback whales are mostly black, although they have varying percentages of white on their pectoral fins, bellies, and undersides of their flukes (tails).

Humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere exhibit greater white markings, especially on their sides and bellies than those in the Northern Hemisphere.

The pectoral fins, stomachs, and undersides of the flukes of humpback whales are mostly black, although they have varying amounts of white on their pectoral fins, bellies, and undersides of their flukes (tails). The flukes of humpback whales are up to 18 feet (5.5 m) long, serrated along the narrow end, and pointy at the tips.

The most commonly seen jumpers are humpback and sperm whales.

Other baleen whales, such as the fin, blue, minke, gray, and sei whales, breach as well as you might see on a whale watching trip if you are very lucky! So what exactly is breaching and what is meant by humpback whale breaching?

Keep reading to find out!

Afterward, also check out what do whales eat and how do whales sleep?

What does breach mean?

Breaching is one of the most stunning sights to behold while whale watching. Whale watchers and scientists alike have long questioned why whales occasionally indulge in this most remarkable and acrobatic of whale activities.

When Cetaceans come to the surface of the water to breathe, they display a series of behaviors known as surfacing behavior or breaching. A breach or lunge often termed as cresting, is a leap out of the surface of the ocean.

The difference between the two is a bit of a stretch. Cetaceans breach using two different methods. The very first technique, which is most commonly used by sperm and humpback whales, is to swim vertically upwards from deep and then right out of the ocean.

The alternative, more typical approach is to swim near to the surface and parallel to it, then jolt upwards at incredible speeds with as little as three tail strokes only to accomplish a breach. Breaching is commonly done in a sequential manner by whales, despite its high energy cost.

What does it mean when a humpback whale breaches?

Whale watching enthusiasts will tell you when breaching, the humpback will exit the surface with the bulk of its body at an acute angle to the level, like 30 degrees. The whale then rotates to land on its side or back, or it may not spin at all and instead "belly flop."

A humpback must exit the water at a speed of 8 meters (26 feet) per second or 29 kilometers per hour, to attain a 90 percent success rate.

The whale will dive beneath the surface for a few seconds or minutes before surfacing vertically and with considerable speed in this remarkable show of athletic skill. Frequently, the animal will spin in mid-air before coming down with a loud splash.

While all whales may breach, the Humpback Whale is the only one who does so often. To push themselves out of the ocean, humpback whales utilize their strong fluke or tail fin. The sight of these whales jumping may be fairly impressive for creatures weighing anywhere from 12,000 to 400,000 pounds (181.43 tons) (depending on species).

Are humpback whales famous for breaching?

Large whales do not all breach on a regular basis, and the reasons for this are unknown. Blue whales and sei whales nearly never breach, whereas fin whales breach only rarely and extensive breaching may be limited to certain populations. Similarly, huge male sperm whales breach seldom, but female sperm whales breach frequently.

The most commonly seen jumpers or breachers are humpback, orca dolphins, and sperm whales. A massive humpback whale breached the water in front of a tiny fishing boat in July 2021, as seen on video. The humpback whale is also prone to breaching episodes, which occur when groups of animals join or divide.

Ocean voyagers are no doubt filled with excitement and total elation when they see these humpback whales jump. The humpback whales were researched since they are noted for their entertaining acrobatics and high-spirited moves both above and below the surface.

The leaping, fluking, breaching, and slapping of a whale's pectoral fin vary based on the weather and how near they are to neighboring whales.

How high can a humpback whale breach?

Isn’t it incredible and amazing watching a gigantic mammal virtually take a flight to launch its mammoth-sized self out of the ocean?

In early July, a massive adult humpback whale breached completely out of the water off the south-eastern coast of South Africa. As if it were some kind of athletic adolescent dolphin, the gigantic whale launched its entire body out of the ocean.

The humpback whales remain by far the most athletic of the whales, springing or breaching out of the water approximately the length of their bodies, approximately 45-50 ft (13.7-15.2 m).

What happens when a whale breaches?

Multiple breaches exhaust the animal, resulting in less of the body clearing the water every time. A single breach takes around 0.075 percent of the whale’s entire daily calorie intake, but a sustained sequence of breaches might result in substantial energy loss.

A breach indicates that the animal is physically healthy enough to do this acrobatic show.

Breaching happens when a whale accelerates towards the water and suddenly rises and jumps out of the ocean, exhibiting up to 90% of its body well above the surface. While breaching, the whale could land on its side or back, which typically results in a large splash.

Why do humpback whales breach?

A humpback at a location in the West Indies recorded the longest sustained sequence, completing 130 jumps in less than 90 minutes. The reasons for whale breaching are uncertain; that being said, data exists to support a variety of possibilities.

Some of the major hypotheses are as follows:

Parasite removal: Whales breach or flipper slap or tail slap to cleanse themselves of parasites. Whales, particularly humpback whales, can carry a range of exterior (as well as internal) parasites feeding on it that can cause itching or even irritation to their delicate skin.

Perhaps the huge forces involved with surface activity assist the whales in ridding themselves of these annoying bugs.

Digestion assistance: Whales can breach to aid in the movement of food down their digestive tract. Greater activity may facilitate the movement of food through the whale's digestive system underwater.

Simply for delight: A young whale or a calf, like any other mammal's offspring, has a high instinct of play, which is essential for exercising expanding bones and muscles, as well as developing body awareness and coordination.

Communication: One of the major reasons whales jump and breach, according to experts, is to communicate more effectively with one another.

Although the exact nature of what these mammals are communicating is uncertain, it is assumed that the sound of the splashes results in communication can vary from identifying their position in the feeding ground to notifying predators like killer whales.

Conserving Whale Populations

Wildlife is precious; so is life underwater. Despite decades of protection, six of the 13 great whale species are categorized as endangered or threatened.

The Protecting Whales and Dolphins Initiative is centered on three primary pillars of initiatives that focus on whales and dolphins in maritime ecosystems:

Better bycatch monitoring as well as mitigation in fishing gear.

Reduced underwater noise and collision hazards from ships in the ocean.

Greater preservation of vital cetacean ecosystems utilized for feeding, breeding, resting, or migrating.

There are several methods to help whales.

Get to know entanglement and be ready to report any that you come across.

Support trade prohibitions on endangered species items, and watching what you buy is helpful like avoiding buying anything manufactured with them.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for humpback whale breaching then why not take a look at how do whales drink milk underwater?, or humpback whale facts.

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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