Meet the Gray Whale

The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is a fascinating marine mammal known for its distinctive appearance and migratory behavior. These whales belong to the baleen whale suborder Mysticeti and are recognized for their dark gray skin, which is often covered in characteristic white patches and barnacles.

Gray whales have a robust body, and adults can reach lengths of 45 to 50 feet on average. One of the notable features of these whales is their heart-shaped blow, which can reach up to 15 feet high. They possess baleen plates in their mouths, allowing them to filter and consume small crustaceans, known as amphipods that live down in the mud. Gray whales are our only true bottom-feeding whales!

One of the most remarkable aspects of gray whales is their epic migration. They undertake one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling thousands of miles annually. The eastern North Pacific population, found along the coasts of North America, particularly in the waters off Alaska, migrates south to the warm breeding lagoons of Baja California, Mexico to have their young and rear them in the warm waters. This migration is approximately 10,000 to 12,000 miles round trip.

Gray whales have played a significant role in various cultures, particularly among indigenous communities. They have been subjects of traditional stories and are revered for their strength and endurance. Unfortunately, gray whales faced threats such as whaling in the past, leading to a significant decline in their population. However, conservation efforts have contributed to the recovery of some populations, and today, they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

Overall, the gray whale stands as a majestic and resilient species, captivating the imagination of people around the world with its remarkable migration and unique characteristics. We’re privileged to see them here in Santa Barbara from December – May!

Posted in