The Humpback Whale is a baleen whale. They have long throat grooves (ventral pleats) that expand while the animal is feeding. Humpback Whales have dark gray-black bodies with mottled white bellies. Every humpback whale has a uniquely shaped dorsal fin and an individually identifiable tail-fluke color pattern (flukes are about 15 ft. wide). They also have the longest pectoral fins of any whale measuring around 15 ft. in length. Humpback Whales feed on small shrimp-like creatures called krill and various types of small bait fish. Humpback Whales are known for their acrobatic breaches during which they can launch themselves completely out of the water. This action takes around the same amount of force it takes to lift a 747 plane off the ground and is seen primarily in their breeding grounds. While all whales are capable of breaching, Humpback Whales are known for exhibiting this type of surface behavior more frequently than other species. They are also well-known for their unique and beautiful “whale songs” which can travel hundreds of miles. While most of the Humpback Whales in the Pacific migrate to-and-from Alaska and Hawaii, there is a small population of approximately 2,000 individuals that instead migrates downward along the coast of California toward Baja, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez.
40-55 feet (12.2-15.2 m)
25-40 tons (22,680-36,000 kg)
Found in all oceans, most humpback whales follow regular migration routes, spending summers in temperate and polar waters feeding, wintering in tropical waters for mating and calving. They can be seen in Southern California during the fall and spring months during their migration.
The Blue Whale is the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. They are categorized as baleen whales and belong to a group of whales known as the rorquals (also includes Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Bryde’s Whales, Sei Whales, and Minke Whales). Blue Whales have long throat grooves that expand while the animal is feeding. Blue-gray in color, the Blue Whale is long and slender with a tiny dorsal fin that is set far along the back, close to the tail-flukes. Blue Whales filter-feed nearly exclusively on small shrimp-like critters called krill by trapping large masses of them in their baleen plates. They can eat up to 40 million krill each day. Blue Whales can be found alone or in small groups while in feeding or mating/birthing grounds. Although they can quicken the pace if alarmed, they typically travel at roughly 10-12 mph. It is believed that the population of blue whales was once nearly 450,000. Unfortunately, due to excessive exploitation from the whaling industry, 99% of the population was killed off, leaving between 8,000-12,000 individuals remaining globally. It is no longer permitted to hunt whales of any kind in the United States, allowing for a slow recovery. Blue Whales are a critically endangered animal that only a small percent of the world will ever be lucky enough to see one in the wild.
Between 90-100 feet (27-30 m) in the Southern Hemisphere and 75-80 feet (23-24.5 m) in the Northern Hemisphere.
100-150 tons (100,000-136,000 kg)
Found in all oceans, they migrate to tropical waters during winter months to mate and give birth. They can be seen in Southern California from mid-June through September.
Only about 3,000-4,000 located in Northern Hemisphere and 5,000-10,000 in the Southern Hemisphere
The Gray Whale is a robust baleen whale with a mottled gray skin color. They are commonly covered with scattered barnacles and patches of lice. They have no dorsal (top) fin, but, about 2/3 of the way back on the body is a prominent dorsal hump; this is followed by 6-12 knuckles along the dorsal ridge that extend to the fluke (tail).They feed primarily on small crustaceans called amphipods that live in arctic mud. They feed by suctioning large scoops of mud from the sea floor, pushing the mud through their baleen plates and eating the small animals that become trapped in them. Gray whales participate in the longest mammal migration on Earth. The journey from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their calving grounds in the isolated lagoons of Baja, Mexico, is approximately 12,000 miles round-trip and takes 6-8 months to complete, traveling about 100 miles per day. During that time, Gray Whales rely heavily on a thick layer of blubber to provide the energy necessary for such a long trip. They rarely eat during this migration. During the summer months gray whales will eat up to 65 tons of food to sustain them for this journey. They are extremely slow swimmers, traveling at about 3-5 miles per hour. For this reason, they were popular targets for commercial whalers and were hunted to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, hunting Gray Whales became a criminal act in 1946 and they have since made a full recovery in population.They were removed from the endangered species list in 1994. Gray whales also once traveled along the Atlantic coast. Unfortunately, the Atlantic population was unable to recover from whaling efforts and is now extinct. Gray whales can stay submerged for up to 20-30 minutes. Gray whale calves are around 10 feet when born weighing around 1,500 lbs. and gain 60-70 pounds per day. To achieve this weight gain they drink about 50 gallons per day on their mother’s milk, which is approximately 50% fat. Within 3 house of birth, a calf can keep itself afloat and swim on a steady course. Length Up to 46 feet (14 m) Weight 30-40 tons (27,200-36,300 kg) Distribution North Pacific, feeding near the Bering sea in summer months and migrating to Baja California, Mexico in the winter to mate and give birth. They can be seen in Southern California between mid-December and April. Population (Endangered) 20,000-22,000 individuals
The Orca (Killer Whale) is the largest dolphin species and one of the most recognizable cetaceans around the world. They have a striking black/white color pattern and individuals are identifiable by a unique white patch behind their dorsal fin called a “saddle patch”. Males are much larger than females and have a significantly larger dorsal fin which can reach 6 feet (1.8 m) in height. Orcas are an apex predator, meaning they are at the top of the food chain. Some populations, referred to as “residents”, stay in the same general area throughout the year, following food sources. These whales typically feed on fish such as salmon or herring. Transient, or Bigg’s Orcas, tend to feed on larger prey including seals, sea lions, sharks, or other cetaceans. They are particularly effective hunters, reaching burst speeds of 30 mph while hunting in groups with the aid of echolocation. Orcas have complex social structures and in some cases are known to spend their entire lives within strong family groups. Little is known about Killer Whale population estimates; however, they are vulnerable to pollution and prey-loss as declining fish populations becomes an issue for both fish-eating populations and Orcas that feed on other fish-eating mammals.
Up to 32 feet (9.6 m) for males Up to 23 feet (8.2 m) for females
8-9 tons (7,250-8,160 kg) for males 4 tons (3,620) for females
Found in all oceans. They are believed to be the most widely distributed cetaceans; although, they are more abundant in cooler waters.
The Common Dolphins are colorful and have complex criss-cross patterns across their sides. They feed primarily on small schooling fish and squid, hunting cooperatively within groups while utilizing echolocation. They are fast swimmers, reaching burst-speeds of 35-40 miles per hour. Common dolphins are very social. They can be found in pods consisting of several hundred individuals and occasionally in megapods of more than 1,000 individuals in one square area! Although they are not endangered, Common Dolphins are extremely vulnerable to pollution and are accidentally caught in fishing gear (gill-nets and shrimp trawls).
7.5-8.5 feet (2.3-2.6 m)
Up to 350 pounds (135 kg) Males are larger than females
Found worldwide in tropical and warm-temperate waters
More than 3,000,000 individuals Description
The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) The brown pelican is an iconic species, frequently seen along coastlines and bays throughout North and Central America and in the northern part of South America. This large, stocky seabird is grayish-brown, with a yellowish head, white neck and a distinctive, large yellowish bill. Juveniles are mostly brown with a white belly and a gray bill. During the nesting season, adults develop a striking reddish brown coloration along the back and sides of the neck and a dark throat-patch. Like other pelicans, brown pelicans plunge dive and scoop up small fishes in the large, flexible pouch of their bills. Brown pelicans almost disappeared from North America due to use of the pesticide DDT in the 1960s and 1970s. DDT entered aquatic food chains through agricultural runoff and pelicans that ate DDT contaminated prey laid eggs with thin shells that cracked under the parents’ weight. Fortunately, brown pelican populations recovered after a ban on DDT in 1972.
The Great Egret (Ardea alba) This tall, elegant egret has white plumage, a long yellow bill and long, black legs. It typically hunts by either slowly wading or standing still in water then striking out with its dagger-like bill at passing prey such as fishes, frogs and other small aquatic animals. Great egrets were hunted to the edge of extinction for their feather-plumes which were used to decorate ladies’ hats. Following a ban on plume-hunting in 1910, the great egret population has recovered across most of its range.