The grey whale, also known as the California gray whale, Pacific gray whale, or gray back whale, is part of the baleen whale species of the infraorder Cetacea, which include three marine mammals: porpoises, dolphins, and whales. The grey whale is a magnificent attraction on the West Coast due to their yearly migration where they pass between feeding grounds and breeding grounds.
A truly incredible species, the grey whale is one of the most popular marine mammals you will be able to see on a whale watching tour. The gray whales’ yearly migration makes their seasonal whereabouts very predictable and a popular attraction for whale watchers. Not to mention, the gray whale is extremely playful. They love to breach the water and slap their flukes against the water, so needless to say they are quite an entertaining species for whale watchers to witness at sea as well.
Before embarking on your next whale watching adventure, get more familiar with this marine giant by learning about them with some fun and interesting gray whale facts!
Gray Whale Facts
- They are indeed massive, but just how big is a gray whale and where how does it compare to other whale species? The average adult grey whale grows between 44-48ft long but can reach up to 50ft and weigh as much as 80,000lbs, which is the equivalent to that of 4-5 elephants! The gray whale is certainly in the top 10 largest whale species on earth, behind the blue whale, the North Atlantic/Pacific right whale, the bowhead whale, fin whale, and sperm whale.
- The grey whale gets its name from its color and appearance, characterized by its slate gray color with white barnacles all over its body. These barnacles hold what are called “whale lice”, which are each about the size of a nickel.
- Grey whales go through one of the longest yearly migrations of any mammal on the planet. These marine giants travel an average of 10,000-12,000 miles from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to birthing grounds near Baja Mexico. The longest migration recorded for grey whales was almost 16,000 miles!
- The grey whale is one of the most popular whale species you can spot on the West Coast. If you are visiting California, you have the best opportunity to spot gray whales between mid-December to mid-April in popular harbors along the coast including Long Beach, San Pedro, and other areas. It’s during this time where viewers can even see gray whales closely from shore as they feed throughout their migration.
- Grey whales are bottom feeders and use their mouths as vacuum cleaners to suck up food from the bottom of the deep blue. So, what do gray whales eat? You can find them sucking up anything on the ocean floor including amphipods, larvae, worms, and other crustaceans. They trap prey in their mouths using their bristles, which pack their food in while allowing excess water to filter and release out.
- Like most other whale species, the females grow slightly larger than the males. They are also the main protectors of baby gray whale calves.
- The only known predator to a gray whale is a pod of killer whales. There is documentation showing orca whales separating mothers and calves during their seasonal migration.
- Grey whales are marine mammals, meaning they breathe air, are warm-blooded, give birth, and even produce milk for their calves. A baby gray whale can consume as much as 80 gallons of the mother’s milk a day on average. During their first year, however, they can consume almost triple that amount of milk!
- Typically, gray whales are known to give birth in shallow waters of Baja California, which is believed to help protect them from predators such as sharks and orcas.
- The earliest gray whale was spotted over 30 million years ago. An average healthy gray whale can live anywhere between 50 and 70 years.
Ready to See Some Grey Whales?
Are you excited yet about witnessing this majestic giant in its natural habitat? If so, then all aboard Harbor Breeze. For decades, we have been Long Beach’s top whale watching tour guide, providing fun and educational whale watching adventures the entire family will love. If you are ready for an unforgettable whale watching experience in Long Beach where grey whales are the most populous, then book your tour today. We look forward to taking you and your friends and family out on the ocean soon!