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Blog: Whale tales

Paul Chai journeyed up the NSW coastline during the 2012 whale migrating season. Recount his trip.

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Whale Identification Guide

Have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between whale species? how do you know what kind of whale you saw? To help you in identifying whales, download these guides and take them with you on your next whale watching adventure!

Download a whale watching guide for your next trip right here (489kb, pdf). (Illustrations by Tony Pyrzakowski Commonwealth of Australia 1989)

 

  Blue Whale identification guide

 

The Blue Whale is the largest mammal on earth At 30 metres (98 ft) in length and 180 metric tons (200 short tons) or more in weight, it is the largest animal ever known to have existed. Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath.[

Humpback Whale identification guide

The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. 

Killer-Whale-Orcca-Diagram

The killer whale, commonly referred to as the orca, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas.

Minke-Whale-Diagram 

The minke whale is a black/gray color. Common minke whales (Northern Hemisphere variety) are distinguished from other whales by a white band on each flipper. The body is usually black or dark-gray above and white underneath. Minke whales have between 240 and 360 baleen plates on each side of their mouths. Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe. Minke whales typically live for 30–50 years; in some cases they may live for up to 60 years.

Sperm-Whale-Diagram

The Sperm Whale is the largest living toothed animal. The head can represent up to one-third of the animal's length. It has a cosmopolitan distribution across the oceans. The species feeds on squid and fish, diving as deep as 3 kilometres (9,800 ft), which makes it the deepest diving mammal. Its diet includes giant squid and colossal squid. The sperm whale's clicking vocalization is the loudest sound produced by any animal, but its functions are uncertain. These whales live in groups called pods. Pods of females and their young live separately from older males.

Southern-Right-Whale-Diagram
 

The southern right whale is readily distinguished from others by the callosities on its head, a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. Its skin is very dark grey or black, occasionally with some white patches on the belly. The right whale's callosities appear white due to large colonies of cyamids (whale lice).

Fin-Whale-Diagram

Reaching 20 meters (66 ft) long and weighing as much as 28 tonnes, the sei whale daily consumes an average of 900 kilograms (1,984 lb) of food, primarily copepods, krill, and other zooplankton. It is among the fastest of all cetaceans, and can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph) (27 knots) over short distances.

Bryde's-Whale-Diagram

Bryde's whales are baleen whales, one of the "great whales" or rorquals. They prefer tropical and temperate waters over the polar seas that other whales in their family frequent. They are largely coastal rather than pelagic. Bryde's whales are very similar in appearance to sei whales and almost as large.

Fin-Whale-Diagram

The fin whale is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second longest whale and the sixth largest living animal after the blue whale, bowhead whale, and right whales, growing to nearly 27 meters (88 ft) long. Long and slender, the fin whale's body is brownish-grey with a paler underside.

  • NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
  • NSW