Whale Mothers & Their Babies

Mother and baby Whales

60% of all pregnant North Pacific female humpbacks will leave Alaska and migrate 3000 miles to Hawaii to give birth to their calves.

Mom and her baby will share the strongest of bonds for one year. Her newborn calf is 12-15 feet in length and weighs 1-2 tons. The calf will put tremendous demands on her body as she nurses the baby with up to 100 gallons of very thick, rich, yogurt like milk a day. She provides this to her baby while she has not eaten in months. Mom must prepare and strengthen her newborn for the long migration to Alaska so she will stay in the warm, predator free waters of Hawaii for an extended time to accomplish this. Most moms will dwell in the protected and shallow waters off Maui. This special body of water is surrounded by four of Hawaii's islands making it the most suitable for baby to learn, grow and play. And learn, grow and play they do!

PectoralsEvery year between December and May, newborn calves go about their business of baby whale frolic putting on a show for all to see. Babies have much smaller lungs than mom so we see our babies at the surface for a breath much more frequently than mom. It's common to see a baby trying to perform a good breach over and over and then have mom come up unexpectedly to show junior how it should be done. At birth baby is light to medium gray in color. By the time mom's decided to head back to Alaska, baby is much larger, quite acrobatic and usually black in color. The unique and identifying markings of its tail will not develop for another 3 years.

Whale FamilyIn Alaska mom will again eat and put on her blubber layer. She must live off her blubber again when she returns to Hawaii in the winter to liberate her calf which will then be one year old. Mom will have done her job and will return to Alaska without her calf and possibly pregnant. Her baby of a year ago is now a juvenile and on its own.

Other Whale Articles

Baby BreachingLearn what to look for when whale watching. Read and view diagrams in order to Recognize Surface Behavior.

Find out why humpback whales are in danger of being whaled to extinction and how we can help on our Kokua page.

Grasp some simple and important tips for photographing whales on your next Maui whale watch.

Also, if you're looking to know more about Maui, check out our favorite local Maui mother's Maui Blog. You'll find some great information and Maui Local insight.

Maui Ocean Center