7 Types Of Marine Life You Can See On A Whale Watching Tour.
1)The Humpback Whale
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale known for its distinctive body shape and acrobatic behavior. Adult humpbacks can grow to be up to 52 feet long and weigh around 79,000 pounds. They are easily identifiable by their long pectoral fins, knobby head, and black dorsal coloring.
Male humpbacks are known for their complex songs, which can last for hours at a time and serve a mysterious but likely important role in mating. Humpback whales are also covered in knobs called tubercles, which are actually hair follicles. Their tail flukes, which are raised above the water's surface during certain diving sequences, have wavy edges.
Humpback whales typically breed every two to three years. The increase in their population in our area is likely due to the abundance of small fish and krill in the region. Humpbacks are also commonly covered in barnacles, which they may remove through breaching, a behavior that also serves as a form of communication and play.
Humpback whales are migratory and typically travel to Hawaii or Mexico in the winter to find warmer waters. The humpback whales in our area may migrate to different locations depending on where they are from in British Columbia. Our knowledgeable guides on board our vessels can explain the differences and help you identify which whales are likely headed to Hawaii or Mexico.
2) The Killer Whale or Orca
Boating enthusiasts in British Columbia and Washington recently reported a sighting of killer whales, leading to an estimate of 250-350 of the animals in the waters of the region. This number is significantly lower than previously believed.
Dr. Biggs, who was originally studying seals, began identifying individual killer whales based on their unique dorsal fins. This method of identification was developed by Dr. Biggs and was not previously known.
Killer whales, also known as orcas, are highly intelligent and are known to have traditions and culture. There may be as many as 10 different types of killer whales in the world, and they are not known to migrate. Each type of killer whale has a lifestyle adapted to the geography and ecosystem of its habitat.
One fascinating aspect of killer whale culture is that they do not interbreed with other types of killer whales. This is believed to be because they have different language barriers and live in different areas with different types of prey. For example, "resident" killer whales are not actually residents, but rather are very predictable in their movements and can be found in areas where they follow salmon.
Campbell River is a great place to see both fish-eating and mammal-eating killer whales. In our region, we have a network of over 1,500 spotters who let us know where the orcas, also known as killer whales, can be found. We also use a special app that shows us their coordinates in real-time. At the end of each season, we are able to tally the number of individual killer whales we have observed.
Killer whales are easily recognizable by their distinctive black backs, white chests and sides, and white patches above and behind their eyes. Calves are born with a yellowish or orange tint, which fades to white as they grow and develop thicker blubber.
Killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family. Male killer whales can grow to be up to 26 feet long and weigh up to 6 tons, while females are typically smaller, ranging from 16 to 23 feet in length and weighing 3 to 4 tons. The largest male killer whale on record measured 32 feet long and weighed over 10 tons.
Killer whales are also known for their impressive speed, with the ability to reach speeds of over 30 knots. Individual killer whales can be identified by their unique dorsal fins, saddle patches, and eyepatches. During our tour, we will provide models and other visual aids to help you learn more about these majestic animals. Our knowledgeable guides are happy to answer any questions you may have.
3) The Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. This sea eagle has two known subspecies and is closely related to the white-tailed Eagle. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the United States, and northern Mexico. Bald Eagles are typically found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting. The adult Bald Eagle has a brown body with a white head and tail. Both males and females have identical plumage, but females are larger than males. The beak is large and hooked, and the immature Bald Eagle has brown plumage speckled with white. Despite its name, the Bald Eagle is not actually bald; the name comes from an older meaning of the word "bald" that referred to a white head.
The Bald Eagle reaches sexual maturity at five years old and has a diet that mainly consists of fish. However, it is an opportunistic feeder and will hunt other animals if necessary. It typically catches fish by swooping down and grabbing them with its talons. In the wild, the average lifespan of a Bald Eagle is around 20 years, with the oldest known individuals living to be about 30.
Bald Eagles prefer habitats near seacoasts, rivers, large lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water with plenty of fish. They also require old-growth and mature stands of coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting. Selected trees should be visible and have an open structure, as well as be near prey. The height and species of the tree are not as crucial as having a large number of trees in the area surrounding the body of water.
The Bald Eagle is a powerful bird that can soar at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 mph) on thermal currents. When gliding and flapping, it can reach speeds of up to 56 kilometers per hour (35 mph), and can maintain a speed of 48 kilometers per hour (30 mph) while carrying fish. However, its dive speed is even faster, reaching up to 160 kilometers per hour (99 mph), though it rarely dives vertically. In some cases, if the eagle is unable to lift a particularly heavy fish, it may be dragged into the water and may struggle to swim to safety. In these cases, the eagle may drown or succumb to hypothermia. Additionally, if a mating pair has repeatedly failed in their breeding attempts, they may split up and look for new mates. The Bald Eagle's nest is the largest of any bird in North America.
Porpoises and dolphins are different species within the same family. They diverged from a common ancestor 15 million years ago, making them more genetically different from each other than lions and tigers, which are in the same genus. Porpoises are more closely related to monodons than they are to dolphins. The biggest morphological difference between the two species is in their teeth and skulls. Porpoise teeth are shaped like little shovels, while dolphin teeth are pointy. Another key difference is in the shape of their dorsal fins: porpoises have a smaller, more triangular fin, while dolphins have a more curved fin. Another way to tell the two species apart is by the length of their rostrums, or the pointy part of their face. Porpoises have a shorter rostrum, while dolphins have a big, elongated rostrum. However, there are some exceptions to these rules, such as the harbor porpoise, which behaves more like a dolphin. In general, dolphins tend to be more aerially acrobatic and can be seen leaping out of the water more regularly, while porpoises generally do not.
The harbor porpoise is a small aquatic mammal that is characterized by its triangular dorsal fin and lack of color variation. Its body is mostly black or grey, with counter shading that helps it blend in with its surroundings. The dark back allows it to blend in with the water, while the light belly helps it blend in with the sky when viewed from below. When it comes to swimming, the harbor porpoise is known for its smooth, rolling movements that allow it to surface for air without breaching out of the water.
In terms of size and lifespan, the harbor porpoise typically reaches a length of 1.2 meters and weighs between 50 and 60 kilograms. Female porpoises are slightly larger than males. On average, harbor porpoises live for 8 to 10 years and reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 to 4 years. Their gestation period is 10.5 months, and they wean their young after 4 to 12 months. Calves are born in the summer, at least on the south coast, and females typically give birth to just one calf per year.
The aquatic shrew is a species that tends to be found in shallow, near-shore waters. They are commonly seen in shallower habitats and are not often found in open water. These animals have a strong preference for Pacific herring and it makes up about 60% of their diet. They also eat small schooling fish and squid. Because of their high metabolic demands, these animals must eat a lot and spend about 75% of their time foraging. They must capture up to 10% of their body weight in fish per day to support their metabolic needs. They are almost constantly eating, and any disturbance that reduces their ability to meet their nutritional demands could potentially be harmful to them. Killer whales and sharks are the main predators of the aquatic shrew. They have evolved to be more cryptic in order to avoid being detected by killer whales. They vocalize at very high frequencies (130-140 kHz) and produce echolocation clicks about every 0.5 seconds. This adaptation allows them to avoid being detected by killer whales, whose hearing only extends to about 100 kHz.
Cryptic species of porpoises, known as harbor porpoises, are often inconspicuous and can travel in small groups or alone. These porpoises are known to congregate in hotspots along the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island, where the geography and tidal mixing create an environment that concentrates their prey, providing an opportunity for breeding. In these areas, large aggregations of porpoises can be seen engaging in eating, breeding, and social interaction, and calves may also be spotted. During mating season, males develop large testes, which can weigh up to 6% of their body weight, and engage in competition for mating opportunities with multiple females. These behaviors have also been observed in Prince Rupert during the winter months.
Hybridization between porpoises, specifically between Dall's porpoises and harbor porpoises, was originally thought to be a rare event. However, it is now known that hybridization happens much more often than previously believed. In fact, 18 pairs of porpoise hybrids have been recorded. These hybrids can be distinguished by their appearance, which is a mix of both species. The first generation of hybrids have physical characteristics that fall right in the middle of the two parent species, such as the number of teeth and vertebrae and their coloration. However, as the generations progress, the hybrids who mate with one species begin to resemble that species more and more, making it harder to distinguish them from purebreds.
A rooster tail splash may be thrown when swimming quickly, and the white frosting on the triangular dorsal fin creates a striking contrast with the black and white coloration, similar to that of a killer whale. The white flank is often visible when the animal surfaces. They are capable of swimming very quickly, though they do not always swim at high speeds. Additionally, a white dip can be seen on the edge of the tail, and a large lump is located between the dorsal fin and the tail.
Dall's porpoise is a medium-sized marine mammal with an average length of 2 meters and weight of 200 kilograms. Males are slightly larger than females. The average lifespan of a Dall's porpoise is 10 years, although some individuals may live up to 20 years. Female Dall's porpoises reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 7 years, while males reach sexual maturity between the ages of 3.5 and 8 years. Gestation for a Dall's porpoise is typically 10 to 12 months, and the calves are weaned after one year. Female Dall's porpoises typically give birth to one calf per year, which is typically born during the early summer. After giving birth, females are ready to mate again within a month. Dall's porpoise calves are born quite large, often half the size of their mothers at around 1 meter in length.
It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female Dall's porpoises in the wild. Males have a forward-leaning dorsal fin that is larger and chunkier, while the dorsal fin of females angles backwards more. However, it is easier to tell the difference if there is a calf present, as females are always with their calves. Dall's porpoises can be found in deeper inshore waters and offshore.
In the Strait of Georgia, the diet of Dall's porpoises consists primarily of Pacific herring, with walleye pollock being the second most important food source. They are also known to feed at night, when prey such as lantern fish and smelts migrate upwards from depths greater than 200 meters.
5) Pacific White Sided Dolphin
The black-beaked dolphin has white flanks and a curved, two-toned dorsal fin. They are known for leaping out of the water when moving at quick speeds, and their rocking horse motion is recognizable by their face emerging from the water first. When moving in groups, they may exhibit squalling behavior as a response to predators. The dolphins are about 2.5 meters long and weigh between 150 and 200 kilograms, with males being slightly larger but less robust looking.
Males can live up to 42 years, while females can live up to 46 years. They reach sexual maturity between 7.5 and 11 years of age and have a gestation period of 11 to 12 months. Weaning occurs after 8 to 10 months. Most calves are born between June and August, and the calving interval may be greater than 4 years.
Males have a chunkier, more curved dorsal fin than females. Their fin has an almost breaking wave-like appearance. The dolphins can be found along the coast in a variety of habitats, from offshore to near shore, and prefer deeper water but also use coastal inlets.
6) Grey Whales
Grey whales are a type of baleen whale that is not often seen in our area. They are typically between 11.5 and 12.5 meters long and have a robust, smooth body without a dorsal fin. Instead, they have a hump on their back and a series of small bumps, known as "knuckles", going down their sides. Grey whales also have patches of barnacles on their skin, and they host a species of whale lice that is specific to them.
Grey whales have a unique feeding strategy among baleen whales. They feed on invertebrates, such as shrimp, worms, larvae, and amphipods, that are commonly found on the ocean floor. To feed, grey whales turn sideways and use their handedness to scrape the bottom for food, generally turning to the right. They also engage in a behavior called "skim feeding", where they swim along the surface and pick up zooplankton as they go.
Grey whales are known for their long migrations, with some individuals traveling up to 22,000 km from their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico to the northernmost reaches of North America. During their migration, they tend to stay close to the shore.
The migration routes of grey whales to British Columbia typically involve traveling up the west coast of Vancouver Island, with fewer whales observed on the inside coast possibly due to increased human activity. At the north end of the island, the whales migrate along the west coast of Haida Gwaii. This has been studied using tags and observation methods such as D tags.
However, our small sample size of tagged whales showed that in reality, they actually migrated through the east side of Haida Gwaii. 111 grey whales were observed traveling up the east side, compared to only 2 sighted on the west side. Killer whales are known to prey on grey whales, particularly targeting calves and yearlings, leading to multiple attacks on some populations.
The Pacific coast feeding aggregation of grey whales is not comprised of all individuals from the population, as some do not make the full migration. In fact, some populations travel as far as Russian and Chinese waters from Baja. These whales may be survivors of multiple attacks.
7) Minke Whales
Minke whales are known for their sharp rostrum and distinctive white stripe on their pectoral fins. They are relatively small, ranging in size from 8-9 meters in length, with females being larger than males. They weigh around 9200 kg on average. These whales have a relatively short gestation period of 10 months and are thought to reproduce annually. However, they only nurse their young for 5 months, and no confirmed mother/calf pairs have been observed in British Columbia.
Minke whales are not well studied, and their lifespan is estimated to be around 50-60 years. They are generally solitary animals, rarely seen in groups. They surface erratically, quickly and can reach high speeds when sprinting. They are not known for being acrobatic, unlike some other whale species.
When Minke whales surface, their rostrum is typically the first part to break the water. They do not have a clear blow from their blowhole, and their dorsal fin is positioned two-thirds of the way back on their body. In less-than-perfect weather conditions, it can be difficult to see or smell Minke whales. They have been nicknamed "stinky minke's" due to the bacteria in their nasal passages and blowhole that can cause their breath to have a lingering odor. In some cases, they can be detected based solely on their scent.