Killer Whale - Orca (Orcinus orca)
Whales are marine mammals that migrate large distances in the ocean. Most whales come to the coast of Newfoundland in late spring/early summer to feed on capelin during their annual spawning. However, it is possible to see whales off the coast of Newfoundland year-round. Whales are more common on the east coast of the island and are often seen inshore when capelin are spawning. Good locations to view whales include the Bay Bulls/Witless Bay area on the southeast Avalon, Trinity Bay, and Bonavista Bay. Although a whale watching tour can get you close to a whale, it is often possible to get very good sightings from the shore.
What kinds of whales come to the coast of Newfoundland?
The most commonly seen whales are humpback, minke and fin whales. However, it is also possible to see killer, sperm and pothead whales as well as white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises.
How can I identify whales?
Whales are best identified by the shape of their “blow” (the puff of moisture they eject from their blowhole when they come to the surface), the shape and colour of their fins and the shape of their head.
Humpback whale – Humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) are up to 12 m in length and weigh up to 35 tons. They are baleen whales. They give off a balloon shaped blow, and their tail fins often emerge completely as they prepare for a deep dive. Tail fins have while undersides, as do their long side fins (1/3rd of their body length). The white markings on the tails are unique to each individual.
Minke whale – Minkes (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) are small whales (8 metres long and weighing 7 tons). They usually have no visible blow and keep their tail and side fins underwater when surfacing and diving. It is also a baleen whale.
Fin whale – Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) are so named because of the curved dorsal (back fin) that is visible when it surfaces. Its blow is a tall, straight cone-shape. It has small pointed side flippers. It is the second largest baleen whale in the world.
For a good online guide see the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism website and the diagrams on the American Cetacean Society Website.
What do I do if I see a whale?
Please report it! Please log your sighting on this website. We are interested in finding out when and where people see whales.
Atlantic Whales: http://www.atlanticwhales.com/index.html
Newfoundland Whales: http://www.newfoundlandwhales.net/
Tourism Site Online Whale Watching Guide: http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/Whales/Species.aspx
American Cetacean Society http://www.acsonline.org/
Terms (source: Oxford Dictionary of Biology)
baleen: Transverse horny plates hanging down from the upper jaw on each side of the mouth of the toothless whales ( see Cetacea ), forming a sieve. Water, containing plankton on which the whale feeds, enters the open mouth and is then expelled with the mouth.