Fun Gray Whale Facts For Kids

Divya Raghav
Oct 20, 2022 By Divya Raghav
Originally Published on Aug 18, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Read on to learn remarkable gray whale facts.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.7 Min

The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), alternatively called the California gray whale, is a giant marine mammal. This mammal presents as very light to dark gray in color and loaded with barnacles and whale lice. The baleen, which it uses to channel food, is smooth and white in color. Female gray whales are slightly larger than males but otherwise, they look almost equivalent to males.

Gray whales are usually found in the North Pacific region and are therefore referred to as North Pacific gray whales. In fact, there are two separate geographic dispersions in the North Pacific ocean of the gray whales: the Eastern North Pacific gray whale stock, which occupy the North American west coast, mainly the Bering and Chukchi seas, and the Korean supply of the Western North Pacific stock, which makes its home mainly along the banks of eastern Asia and the warm water lagoons of Baja California. These locations are probably the best whale-watching locations to spot this once Critically Endangered marine mammal. Gray whales exhibit polyamoury, and the female gray whale gives birth to a single calf that she nurtures without any help from the males. The females are very possessive of their calves and become extremely ferocious when separated from them, thereby earning the name of 'devil fish'.

Here, we have many amazing and interesting facts about the gray whale that you will enjoy. For more relatable content, check out these whale shark facts and minke whale facts for kids.

 

Gray Whale Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a gray whale?

Gray whales are giant marine mammals that are mainly found along the North Pacific region. These North Pacific gray whales are gray to black in color and lack the dorsal fin. These gray whales are baleen whales, possessing baleen, a physiological feature used to filter food. These gray whales migrate between breeding and feeding grounds yearly. Gray whales can reach up to a height of about 50 ft (15.2 m) long and a weight of about 40 tons (40.6 met ton), living till they are around the ages of 75-80 years old.

What class of animal does a gray whale belong to?

The gray whale is a species of whale, and just like all the other whales, it belongs to the class Mammalia.

How many gray whales are there in the world?

According to the IUCN Red List, the population of the eastern Pacific stock is 15,000-22,000 gray whales, while the population of the western Pacific stock is just around 100 gray whales, made up of just 20-30 adult females. At present, the eastern population of gray whales is steady and is listed as of Least Concern. In contrast, the western population was listed as Critically Endangered before being updated to Endangered, following an increase in their populations.

Where does a gray whale live?

Gray whales prefer to live in shallow seaside or marine waters with sloppy or sandy grounds. They are migratory in nature, and their habitat depends on an assortment of seaside territories and lagoons.

What is a gray whale habitat?

The gray whale's habitat usually comprises the eastern and western North Pacific coast. Eastern North Pacific gray whales utilize shallow and cold grounds throughout the summer season for their summer feeding, which is situated in the Bering and Chukchi seas. However, during the fall season, these whales migrate to the south along the west shoreline of North America to their winter calving grounds, situated in the warm water lagoons of Baja, California, Mexico, and Canada. Both of these locations happen to be some of the best whale-watching locations.

Who does gray whale live with?

Gray whales live in little groups, however in some cases, they form large units, yet they don't remain in the same group for the entirety of their life. The bonds that they form with other gray whales are not very strong and they proceed onward to another group during migration.

How long does a gray whale live?

A gray whale's lifespan ranges from 75-80 years with proper feeding and diet and with the absence of diseases. Typically, these diseases are caused by ill-effects of industrial activities, like spilling oil and gas or entanglement in fishing gear.

How do they reproduce?

Gray whales are polyamorous or polygamous in behavior, and their breeding and mating practices are somewhat complex, which regularly include at least three gray whales connected at the same time. They mate consistently through the entire year; however, most conceptions occur between early December and late November. After an incubation time of 13-14 months, a female gives birth to a solitary calf, which she nurtures until the whale's calf reaches the age of six to seven months. Calving grounds are generally in shallow tidal ponds and lagoons that are hyper-saline. The baby calves acquire the feeding grounds of the mother whales and are frequently found in them a year after they have become independent of their mother. Gray whales typically reach sexual maturity anywhere between 5-11 years old.

What is their conservation status?

The western population of gray whales was registered as Critically Endangered before being updated to Endangered implying that their population has increased markedly. The eastern population of the gray whales is listed as Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List, which implies that they are not on the Endangered species list and their entire population range is secure. The main threat to their conservation has been due to whaling, industrial activities like oil and gas spillages resulting in habitat loss.

Gray Whale Fun Facts

What does a gray whale look like?

Gray Whale

As the name suggests, gray whales have dark gray backs, and they are frequently infested by pervasions of skin parasites (due to barnacles and whitish-orange whale lice) which gives their skin a harsh and inconsistent appearance. Gray whales don't have dorsal blades, unlike humpback whales, with which they are most commonly confused. Instead, these baleen whales have an enormous hump at the foremost end of their tailstock, accompanied by 7-15 handles or knuckles of diminishing size (big to small in size). Gray whales have little paddle-formed flippers, contrasted with the huge white flippers of humpback whales. Their caudal fins have two wide gray flukes, each separated by a profound notch. Their upper jaw stretches out past the lower jaw, and they have two to five throat creases, which permits the mouth and throat to grow during feeding. Adult whales have 130-180 cream-shaded baleen plates that measure up to 2-9.8 in (5-25 cm) long each.

How cute are they?

This baleen whale, which can be found mostly along the seafloor, lagoons, and the ocean coast, is extremely cute in appearance. They are also quite friendly with humans and are often found swimming and feeding near human ships and boats.

How do they communicate?

Scientists have not found out much about the communication process of gray whales, but most whales do communicate by utilizing an assortment of high and low recurrence 'whale melodies', including delayed profound moans. Observations have shown that dark whales also utilize a basic exhibit of short pulses and vibrations to communicate with others.

How big is a gray whale?

Gray whales are a species of huge sea creatures! These whales reach up to 512-590.5 in (1,300-1,500 cm) in length. Gray whales are massive in size as compared to the other fishes of the eastern pacific west coast, like the pomfret or the yellow tuna.

How fast can a gray whale swim?

Gray whales swim with a speed of up to 9.3 mph (15 kph) which is comparatively slower than the speed of fin whale that swims with a speed of 23-25.5 mph (37-41 kph).

How much does a gray whale weigh?

A gray whale's weight ranges between 31,360-78,400 lb (14,225-35,562 kg), which is almost three times less than the weight of a fin whale.

What are the names of the male and females of the species?

The males are called bulls and the females are called cows.

What would you call a baby gray whale?

Baby gray whales are referred to as calves. The calves become independent of their mother after six or seven months.

What do they eat?

Gray whales are mysticetes or filter feeders, and they are the lone huge cetacean referred to as bottom feeders. Gray whales feed on small sea creatures, and their feeding grounds comprise shallow water with sloppy or sandy bottoms. To begin their feeding process, they jump to the seafloor and fill their mouths with huge quantities of sediments from the bottom, which is the reason why they are called bottom feeders. After reaching the bottom, they force the silt through their baleen plates, which traps a wide assortment of food items for them, such as shellfish, including amphipods, apparition shrimp, polychaete worms, herring eggs, and different types of hatchlings. For ingestion, food items are scratched off their baleen plates with their enormous tongue and then ingested.

Are they dangerous?

Gray whales might prove to be dangerous because of their enormous size, but they don't usually harm humans, their ships, or boats unless they are disturbed or harmed.

Would they make a good pet?

It is impossible to make a pet out of a gray whale because of its enormous size and difficult conditions. Humans have interfered in their lives way too much, nearly driving them to extinction. Hence they are best left to thrive in their natural conditions.

Did you know...

Gray whales are not extinct as of now; however, one of its species comes under the Endangered species category due to whaling and harmful industrial activities like spilling of oil and gas and extensive fishing. These whales are also getting caught in fishing gear and eventually dying, leading to a decrease in their population.

A gray whale and a humpback whale are different whales, but they are very similar in appearance.

Gray whales breach several times in a row, and the newborn calves breach more than the adults.

Gray whales follow a migration route which comprises a round trip for their summer feeding.

Pacific gray whales are protected by international organizations like the International Whaling Commission.

How long can a gray whale stay underwater?

An adult gray whale can stay underwater for about 20-30 minutes, after which they perform sky hopping just like other whales. Sky hopping involves lifting the head of the whales outside of the water while exposing the rostrum for several minutes.

What makes gray whales unique?

Gray whales are baleen whales; this implies that they filter their food through baleen plates, but they differ from the other two species of baleen whales as these are bottom feeders that feed on the bottom of the seafloor, unlike the other two species. Also, they lack the dorsal fin, unlike humpback whales which makes them unique.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our hoolock gibbon interesting facts and silver marmoset fun facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable gray whale coloring pages.

Gray Whale Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Crustaceans, ghost shrimp, polychaete worms, herring eggs, larvae

What Type of Animal were they?

Carnivores

Average Litter Size?

1

How Much Did They Weigh?

31,360-78,400 lb (14,225-35,562 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

coastal and marine waters, oceanic pelagic zones

Where Do They Live?

north america, central america, east asia

How Long Were They?

512-590.5 in (1,300-1,500 cm)

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Mammalia

Genus

Eschrichtius

Family

Eschrichtiidae

Scientific Name

Eschrichtius robustus

What Do They Look Like?

Light to dark gray

Skin Type

Smooth skin with small hair follicles

What Are Their Main Threats?

shipping, industry, habitat loss

What is their Conservation Status?

Western North Pacific population: Endangered Eastern North Pacific population: Least Concern
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Written by Divya Raghav

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

Divya Raghav picture

Divya RaghavBachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

With a diverse range of experience in finance, administration, and operations, Divya is a diligent worker known for her attention to detail. Born and raised in Bangalore, she completed her Bachelor's in Commerce from Christ University and is now pursuing an MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore. Along with her professional pursuits, Divya has a passion for baking, dancing, and writing content. She is also an avid animal lover who dedicates her time to volunteering for animal welfare causes.

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