Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)



  • BC: Blue – S3 (2006)
  • COSEWIC: Special Concern
  • SARA: Special Concern (2017)
  • Global: Apparently Secure (2016)


This large, up to 17m long whale is loosely social, travelling in large groups for no longer than a few days at a time. Like grey whales, humpbacks are baleen whales. The two may often be confused, however humpback whales can be identified by their extremely long flippers, serrated flukes (tail fin), and knob-like tubercles on their head, jaws, and flippers. Additionally, in contrast to grey whales, humpbacks have a lunge approach to feeding. They surface quickly with their mouths open, capturing their prey in the water column. As they reach the surface, it is hard to not notice the large slits (pleats) running from their chin to their navel area. These expand to incorporate massive gulps of their prey; typically krill or small schooling fish.


Humpbacks migrate from their breeding grounds in lower latitude areas in the winter, to their summer feeding grounds in high latitude areas. They display a high degree of site fidelity, meaning they almost always return to the same feeding location each year. The humpbacks off the west coast of British Columbia typically migrate from breeding grounds in Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America, and are members of the North Pacific population.


Humpback whales were severely impacted by whaling in the 20th century, with numbers decreasing to only 6,000 individual whales. Luckily, there has been recovery since then – their growing population count sparked their down listing from threatened to ‘species of special concern’ in 2011 by COSEWIC.

Galiano Status

Humpback whales are frequently sighted in the waters around Galiano Island.

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