Humpback Whale

Megaptera Novaeangliae

What do they look like?

A humpback whale can grow up to 17 metres in size, with a huge, iconic tail and pectoral fins measuring up to 5 metres long. Its head and back are dark grey in colour and display a scattering of distinctive bumps and ridges. An uneven, hooked dorsal fin sits around three-quarters of the way down its back, small in comparison to the rest of its body. Usually solitary or socialising in small groups, humpback whales are known for their energetic breaching and lob-tailing behaviours.

Humpback whales feed mainly on plankton, crustaceans and small schooling fish, often consuming more than 1 ton of food every day. They can feed alone or in groups, sometimes employing clever tricks, such as the use of bubbles, to control and catch their prey.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Although more frequently spotted on the West and North coasts of Scotland, sightings are not unheard of on the East coast, where whales have been known to stick around for many consecutive days or weeks. Splitting their time between the abundant feeding grounds in the polar regions and the warmer waters of the tropics, they migrate thousands of miles every year.

Baleen whale
Meaning they have no teeth. Instead they have hundreds of hard, flexible plates of baleen inside their mouth. Each plate has a hair-like fringe on the inner edge which acts like a strainer to help the whale collect its food.
80 years
Average lifespan

Want to find out more about cetaceans in Scotland?

Visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website or the Sea Watch Foundation website for more information.