Why Do Whales Migrate?
Why do whales migrate? The most common answer is that it is a matter of survival. As they need to survive harsh weather, cold water and hunger they will travel great distances in search of food. But why do whales move?
Whales have lived in the warm coastal waters of the Earth since the days of the dinosaurs. When they migrate to find food source for their young pods and themselves, they move through cold water, usually near the equator, and go on to travel long distances to find warmer waters to give birth to their calves. Some whales even travel between shore and off-shore areas – some as far away as Australia.
Why do some whales choose certain times of the year to come together and others do not? The best time for a whales journey is during the breeding season or molting. This is when they are the most active. During this time they can cover large distances – up to 8 kilometres per hour. They breed at this time of the year because their fin whales have just born. Their baby’s growth is very rapid so they must find somewhere warm to give birth.
How do whales move in winter and how long do they spend there? When the ice breaks up in the Arctic, some of the whales head for the open water and others head out into calving areas where they wait for the ice to melt again. The summer months are much calmer and calving is less frequent. In the summer the whales use up most of their fat stores and head back south.
Whales give birth to their calves once they are about four to five months old. The mothers take their newborn babies with them on their journeys. The mothers stay on land most of the time to feed the calves when they get close to the shore. They then move on to a new feeding area.
Why do minke whales migrate? Minkes migrate because of their diet – to eat finfish, small fish, other minke whales, seabirds, berries, nuts and other plant-eating creatures. So next time you see whales, pay closer attention to what they’re up to.
Did you know that the Bering Sea has its own resident right whale? The far south pacific right whale makes an annual migration journey from the waters of Antarctica to Bering Sea. You can see the whales come together to make their migration trek once they reach the warmer waters of the far north. When the far south pacific right whale returns to the warm waters they mate and have their young. These young calves become hooked on food and eventually turn into adults.
When the Bering Sea and the Arctic regions become too cold for the fin whales, they head out into the open seas. These large whales give birth to calves that are similar in size to their mother. As they grow they move farther into the colder waters and begin to travel to the warmer waters of the Arctic Ocean. When the ice melts and the waters warm again these large mammals migrate back south.