Humpback Whale

Marine Creature:  Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

                                                                                 Kindly compiled by Planet Whale

General Description

Humpback Whales are one of the most demonstrative of the great whales, regularly breaching, lobtailing and slapping pectoral flippers on the surface of the water. They can also be quite inquisitive and will occasionally approach whale watching boats or passing ships. The best way to identify them is by the distinctive small doral fin or enormous pectoral fins.

Although they normally travel singly or in very small pods, large congregations are not uncommon on the summer feeding grounds.

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale


The humpback whale is found in all the oceans of the world. It is a strongly migratory species, favouring cold, temperate waters in the summer and moving to warmer, tropical waters in the winter to mate and calve. The population of this species was severely depleted by whaling but is now making a good recovery in most parts of the world. However, it still remains one of the rarest of the great whales in the eastern North Atlantic.

Size:  Up to 15m in length with pectoral fins reaching up to 6m in length.

Food:  Herring, sandeel, capelin, planktonic crustaceans, and other schooling fish and squid.

Interesting Facts

Humpback Whales are very vocal animals and are known as the singing whales – the males will sing long, complex and repetitive songs as part of courtship.

Bubble netting is one of their most well-known methods of hunting cooperatively, and these enormous bubble nets can reach up to 45m wide.

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

Feeding & Hunting

Humpback whales use an extraordinary range of methods to catch their favoured prey species: herring, sandeel, capelin, planktonic crustaceans, other schooling fish and squid. Depending on the prey type and abundance, humpbacks can work alone or in a group. They exhibit a range of hunting methods, sometimes stunning fish by lobtailing or flipper-slapping, lunge feeding, co-operatively herding, or corralling schooling fish by trapping them inside walls of bubbles released through their blowholes (bubble netting).


Entanglement in discarded fishing gear is a big problem, and organisations in various parts of the world have started having to put in place teams to free these whales from discarded pieces of net and fishing line.

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

Conservation Status & International Protection

IUCN categorises the Humpback whale as “least concern”.


Best places in the world to see these creatures:

There are many places to see humpbacks, but in particular Mexico’s Baja California, Iceland, and Hawaii are great spots at certain times of year.

Check out to see other locations worldwide, plus ethical reviews and rating system for whale watching trips to see Humpback Whales

Organisation Profile:  Planet Whale

Orca7Description/Background of work

At the heart of Planet Whale is a belief that an encounter with a wild whale or dolphin reconnects us with the natural world in an amazing and powerful way. For one humbling moment we can be moved to tears or celebrating wildly as we stare through the thin veil of water that separates us from these magnificent animals.

Planet Whale understands that we all need such encounters to reawaken our sense of responsibility to the natural world; energising ourselves to act for the greater good. That is our first step – only when we have been inspired will we feel compelled to act. For this reason we promote responsible whale watching and have the largest online searchable database of whale and dolphin watch operators in the world – the public can review trips they’ve been on with regard to their sustainability, educational value and impact on the marine environment, amongst other things.

It is this global community that will change the way we view whales and dolphins forever. By harnessing the passion and ideas of individuals, we will achieve more to protect and defend our oceans than ever before.

Together we will: 

  • Give the people control so they can use it to help whales and dolphins.
  • Inspire change through a new global partnership.
  • Make whale watching more sustainable – and successful – than ever before!
  • Reach out to the world with colossal festivals for whales and dolphins.
  • Create innovative campaigns that harness the power of the web’s global community.


Volunteer/Paid Work Opportunities

We are always looking for passionate and hard-working volunteers to help achieve our Planet Whale mission. In particular we welcome applications for the upcoming Whalefest. You don’t need to be a whale expert but a lot of enthusiasm for marine conservation and a fun attitude are essential. We’re based in Brighton and Hove (UK) but our volunteer network stretches across the globe, so feel free to get in touch wherever you are! Contact us at


Return to Baleen Whales or learn more about the Fin Whale