Australian Wildlife

  Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Humpback Whale | Megaptera novaeangliae photo
Humpback whale, Hervey Bay Queensland

Image by Mike Locke - Some rights reserved.    (view image details)

Humpback Whale | Megaptera novaeangliae photo
The snout of the whale is called the rostrum. The Humpback rostrum has knobby protuberances.

Image by Rob & Dani, Queensland - Some rights reserved.

Humpback Whale | Megaptera novaeangliae photo
The small dorsal fin is well down the back.

Image by Frank Peters - Some rights reserved.


The Humpback Whale has a dark grey or black body, with white markings on its underside. The black and white markings are unique and can be used to identify individual animals. They have long pectoral fins with bumps on the leading edges. It has narrow head covered in protuberances (bumps), and often has barnacles attached to head and fins. It has a very small dorsal fin far down its back.

Adults are 14m to 18m. The calves are 4m to 5m at birth

Humpback whales feed in the Antarctic waters from November to May. They migrate north to their breeding grounds off the Queensland coast in May/June.

Humpback do not have teeth. They feed by filtering krill (kind of shrimp) between baleen plates attached to the top jaw. They have 300-400 of these baleen plates. They also eat small schooling fish caught by opening their mouths and lunging into the school of fish.

Gestation period is about 11 months. Females have a calf every 2-3 years, and the calf is weaned after 11 months. The young reach maturity at about 12-15 years and can start breeding after about 7 years. The breeding season is between June to October.

distribution map showing range of Megaptera novaeangliae in Australia

Map is from Atlas of Living Australia website at https://biocache.ala.org.au licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia License

Whale watching is popular in Queensland, especially in Harvey Bay. The whales arrive in Hervey Bay from late July and stay until November when they start their migration to Antarctica.

Conservation Status
The conservation status in the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals is "vulnerable".

Common Name:Humpback Whale