Whale Migration

Information & Details

Whale Migration Details

Some of the whales and dolphins seen in our area, and the general migration patterns they have historically followed, are listed below. Links are provided to the American Cetacean Society for additional species information. Sightings, of course, vary from trip to trip, as well as through the seasons. If you want to see all the species possible in this area, you should consider joining us on several expeditions, at different times of the year.

Humpback Whales (May – November) SF Bay Whale Watching – Humpback Whales Feeding
  • Adult Humpbacks range between 40 and 50 feet in length.
  • These whales travel alone, or in groups of up to to 10 individuals.
  • Humpback Whales blow up to 10 feet in short, bushy, balloon-shaped spouts. They may blow 4 to 8 times between dives.
  • Dramatic, graceful, often rotating breaches (in which whales “leap” partially—sometimes nearly fully—out of the water) have earned Humpbacks the nickname “ballerinas of the sea.”
Gray Whales (December – May)

Gray Whales may be seen in the waters off our coast during both their migration from the Bering sea to their breeding areas in Baja California, which begins in October and takes two to three months, as well as during their return trip northward, which begins in the spring and lasts about the same length of time. Additionally, some individual Grays are seen during the summer months off the northern California coast.

  • Adult male Gray Whales reach about 45 feet in length, while females are slightly longer.
  • Grays of both genders typically weigh between 30 and 40 tons.
  • This whale owes its common name to the mottled gray and white patches on its skin. At birth, Gray Whale calves are darker than adults, sometimes even black.
  • Grays are bottom feeders, eating mostly crustaceans and other organisms found in ocean-floor sediments.
  • Gray whales produce a distinctive V-shaped blow, and usually blow several times, at short intervals, before diving for 3-5 minutes.
Harbor Porpoise

One of the smallest of the oceanic cetaceans, the harbor porpoise is shy and elusive, not inclined to approach boats and bow ride, as many other species of dolphins and porpoises do.

Maximum length is 6 feet (1.9 m) with a possible maximum weight of 200 pounds (90 kg).

The harbor porpoise eats non-spiny fishes such as herring, cod, whiting, squid, pollock, and sardines. It seems to require large amounts of food, consuming approximately 10% of its body weight each day.

Harbor porpoises may be seen singly or in pairs, or in small groups of 6 to 10 animals. Sightings have been reported of 50 to 100 in groups that were actively feeding.