Humpbacks have become the star attraction for whale watchers. Their playful
behaviour involves rolling on the surface, beating their tails and flukes, breaching
(leaping out of the water) and a showy display of the tail prior to diving.
The Humpbacks congregate in the Bay of Fundy from June to October and tend, to travel
alone or in small groups of two or three. As winter approaches the region, the whales
follow set migration routes to the warmer waters of Bermuda, Trinidad, and the West Indies.
Mating season is during the summer months with calves being born after a gestation
period of one year. The calves weigh as much as 11 tonnes at birth and can be as much as
4 m in length. Females give birth about once every two to three years and wean their young
after about 10 to 11 months. Humpbacks have a life span between 30 to 40 years and the
current worldwide population of humpbacks is estimated at approximately 25,000.
Humpbacks range from 12-18 m in length and can exceed 36 tonnes in weight. Their
flippers are about one third their body length and are partially or totally white with
bumps on the leading edge. The Humpback is also characterized by a flat snout, an
irregular shaped dorsal fin, and tail flukes which have a white pattern on the underside
which may differ from its left to right side.
Their diet consists of herring, mackerel, cod and other small schooling fish. Humpbacks
feed by circling below their prey and emitting a large mass of bubbles as they rise. As
the Humpback swims in tighter circles, the bubbles corral the prey and force them closer
together. Once the fish become concentrated enough, the Humpback will rise up through the
mass of fish with its mouth open.
Finn Back Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
The Finn Back Whale is the most commonly seen large whale in the Bay of Fundy area and
is second in size only to the Blue Whale. They vary in length from 9 m to 24 m (30-78 ft) and
can weigh up to 73 tonnes with the female often being larger than the males. The Finn Back
call the Bay of Fundy home from June to October at which time they head for the warmer
waters of the south.
The Finn Back can be identified by the off-white patch located on the right side of the
head. Their dorsal fin is located two thirds of the way down the body with a ridge that
extends from the fin to the tail. The easiest way to spot the whale is by their blow,
which can reach 6 m in height.
Young are usually born in the late winter to early spring with females giving birth
about once every two to three years, with a gestation period of one year. The young weigh
up to three and a half tonnes at birth and can be as much as six meters in length. The
young are usually weaned for a period of 7 months and can live as long as 75 years. The
north Atlantic Finn Back whale population is estimated to be between 7,000 and 10,000.
The Finn Backs are considered to be slow swimmers and rarely show their tail. They travel
both alone and and in-groups or a pair consisting of mother and a calf. Their diet
consists mostly of krill (a small shrimp-like animal), herring, and capelin. The Finn Whale
uses its white patch in two ways: one, to heard prey into tight groups by swimming in a
clockwise direction exposing the patch to the view of the prey; two, by swimming after
prey in a counter clockwise direction when they wish to remain hidden from their prey.
Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)
Baby Finn Backs are often confused with adult Minke Whales. The easiest way to tell
the difference between the two is in their movement. Finn Back whales tend to glide along
the surface while Minke Whales tend to roll in the water much the same as a porpoise.
Adult Minke Whales are about nine meters in length and can weigh as much as nine
tonnes. The Minke Whale has its dorsal fin in the same location as that of the Finn Whale,
about two thirds of the way down their body. Their flippers have a characteristic white
band on them.
Mating is done from the mid-winter to early spring, with a gestation period of about 10
to 11 months and a weaning period of approximately six weeks and a life span
in the range of 50 years. The worldwide population of Minke Whales is approximately 900,000. Minke Whales
are shy, mainly travel alone, and have no noticeable blow, allowing them to often go
unnoticed. The Minke Whale is the world's most heavily hunted whale.
Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
The Right Whale is distinguishable by its lack of a dorsal fin, its black back, and white
patches on its sides. The tail is recognizable by its dark, straight flukes. The snout of
the Right Whale is marked with rough, irregularly shaped skin patches, with a narrow
arched upper jaw and huge lower jaw. The blow of the Right Whale rarely exceeds 3 m and
usually has a billowy "V" shape.
Right Whales are found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Southern Hemisphere.
They are slow swimmers. Coupled with that they have a high oil content, this has led to them
being hunted to near extinction in the past. Both Northern and Southern populations are
considered endangered worldwide and have been protected since 1937. Although these animals
have been protected for the last 60 years, there has been no substantial increase in their
population to date.
While very little is known about the reproduction patterns of the Northern Right Whale,
the Southern Right Whales produce young that range in size from six to seven meters, about once
every two to three years. This may be longer for the Northern Whales. The life span of the
Right Whale is approximately 50 years and current estimates put the worldwide population
at about 1,000 animals. Right Whales feed almost exclusively on krill.
Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
Common throughout the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, the highest populations can be seen
during the summer months. The adults range from 1.25 to 2 m in length and weigh 45 to 65 kg.They
are marked by their prominent dorsal fin, located at the mid point of the body, and have a
round snout with no beak. Their backs are black with light grey sides changing to a lighter grey on their underside.
Feeding mainly on herring and squid, they are only found in the Northern Hemisphere,
preferring the colder waters of the area. Females bear young every 1 to 2 years and have a
gestation period of 11 months. The young weigh approximately 9 kg at birth and are about 75 cm
in length. Rarely seen alone, harbour porpoises travel in groups of 2 to 10, and they have an
average life span of 13 years.
Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus)
Dolphins are frequent in the Bay of Fundy from June to October. They range in size from two
to three meters and weigh approximately 250 kg. Distinguished by their tall, pointed
falcate dorsal fin, black back, white underside and grey side, which bears a white stripe
at the mid flank and a yellowish stripe at the rear flank. They feed mainly on squid,
hake, smelt, shrimp and herring. Females give birth every two to three years and the young
are usually about one meter in length and will nurse for a period of about one and a half
years.These playful dolphins are a pleasure to watch and are not shy of boats. They travel
in groups of three to six and may be seen in groups as large as 50 to 200.