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All you need to know about whales

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Wild About Whales
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Marine mammals
Humpback whale breaching. Photo: P.Beiboer/OEH

Australia is the lucky country in many ways, but we are particularly lucky when it comes to whales. Did you know that there are at least 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises that visit or live in Australia? With the addition of migrating whales it is easy to see why NSW is the perfect spot to go Wild about Whales!

The annual whale migration is a great time to see the whales and to learn more about these beautiful creatures. With up to 18,000 whales expected to pass the headlands of NSW this season, it has never been a better time to get to your coastal national park to discover and learn more about them.

Make you next coastal adventure to a NSW national park extra special with these fun whale facts;

1. The longest migratory journey on Earth

Did you know that humpback whales migrate around 5,000km on average, making their journey one of the longest on earth!

humpback whales are found in all of the world’s oceans, but seeing them in NSW is particularly special. Find your nearest vantage point to watch these majestic creatures as they travel to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the warmer waters between June to August. Then enjoy the return journey as they make their southern migration to the cooler Antarctic waters in the spring.

2. The secrets of whale songs

Hearing a whale sing is a spectacular experience, and not only are whale songs fun to listen to but they also play a very important part in understanding more about these creatures. Whale songs provide clues about their existence such as migration times and population.

Male humpbacks are famous for long and complex songs that travel enormous distances throughout the oceans and can last for hours. Whale songs are specific to different populations and can be heard hundreds of kilometres away.

3. Mammals of the Sea

Whales developed from land mammals that lived in warm salty waters around 55 million years ago. This is why whales need to regularly come up to get air in order to survive. They belong to the order of animals called Cetacea, which also includes dolphins and porpoises.

4. Humpbacks innovative meal times

Humpbacks use an inventive method called bubble net feeding to capture their prey. Whales do this by blowing bubbles below a school of fish and trapping their meal in a ring of bubbles – this is often achieved with the help of other whales. With their meal conveniently trapped, the whale suddenly swims upwards toward the net and water surface forcing thousands of fish into their wide gaping mouths. Grooves in the whale’s mouth allows the water to escape while keeping their delicious dinner perfectly contained.

Whales can also work together by using cooperative ‘bubble-netting’ – this occurs when multiple whales all releasing bubbles and surfacing together. Delicious!

5. Cultural Significance

The whale is not just important to the sea and a spectacular creature to observe, but it is also an important totem for numerous Aboriginal groups. A totem is an object or thing in nature that is adopted as a family or clan emblem. Clans are assigned different totems, and in some cases individuals are given personal totems at birth. The whale is the totem of the Darkinjung People of the Central Coast of NSW.

Learn more about the different whale species you may see on your new coastal adventure this whale watching season by downloading the Wild About Whales Smartphone App, where you can also share your sightings and use it as guide while you’re on your next coastal adventure.

To stay up to date on all things natural register for Naturescapes, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife e-newsletter.

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