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Your Complete Guide To Baby Whales

an animal swimming in the water

Are you curious to learn more about baby whales? These beautiful creatures have unique and fascinating stages of development, methods of communication, and quirks. Whether you want to read up on baby whales before heading out on a whale-watching trip or whether you just want to get informed to satisfy your curiosity, there are several fun facts to know about these majestic marine mammals. Here’s your complete guide to what you should know about baby whales.

Baby Whales, Also Known as Calves, Develop in the Womb for Up to 16 Months

When a female whale is pregnant with her calf, her gestation is likely to last longer than the gestation period for a human child. In fact, some whales gestate for as long as 16 months! Other whale species gestate for as little as nine months. In a similar manner to human babies, calves receive the essential nutrients they need to develop via an umbilical cord.

Whales Have Live Births in the Water

One interesting baby whale fact you may not have known is that whales have live births, and give birth while in the water. However, this also presents a risk of drowning for the baby whale. To make sure the calf is safe, the mama whale will:

  • Give birth to the calf tail-first
  • Bring the baby to the surface of the ocean immediately after birth
  • Allow the calf to take its first breath at the surface

animal on the water

Whale Mating Seasons Typically Occur in Warmer Climates

In order to mate and bear calves, whales generally must travel to warmer climates. This means that during whale mating season, whales of all types tend to swim toward the equator to escape cold seasons and have a conducive environment for mating. The exact time of year that this migration and mating occurs usually depends on the exact type of whale.

Because whale mothers typically only have one baby at a time, their reproductive cycles usually only occur once every few years. Some whales reproduce every two years, while others reproduce every five years. After each birth, female whales nurse for anywhere between five months to a few years.

Female Whales Feed Their Calves Nutritious Mother’s Milk

Just like human mothers, female whales feed their little ones mother’s milk. Whale milk contains all the nutrients calves need to develop in a healthy way. The fat content in whale milk is particularly high and prevents the milk from mixing with ocean water. Generally, calves:

  • Begin feeding soon after birth
  • Nudge their mom’s belly to let her know they’re hungry
  • Nurse underwater, but relatively close to the ocean’s surface
  • Feed on mother’s milk for two to three years
  • Gradually transition to locating their own food sources

Baby Whales Can Be Surprisingly Large and Heavy

Despite their young age, baby whales can be surprisingly hefty. In fact, calves at birth can be up to a third the length of their mom! However, the exact size typically depends on the species of whale. Some baby whales clock in at about a fourth of their mother’s length. Even smaller baby whales can still be up to 26 feet long! Additionally, calves can weigh several thousands of pounds, making these babies some of the heaviest marine mammals from birth.

Calves Are Capable of Swimming Immediately After Birth

Fascinatingly, calves are born with the innate capability to swim in ocean water and navigate their way through the waters. Immediately following their birth, baby whales begin moving through ocean waters alongside their mothers. As they grow older, calves mimic their mothers’ behavior to learn how to jump in and out of the water. This innate skill gets sharpened with practice over time.

Unfortunately, it’s during a baby whale’s early years that calves are the most vulnerable to potential predators as well. That’s why it’s crucial for calves to start sharpening their swimming skills early. Sharks in particular tend to prey on weak baby whales, which move at a slower pace than adult whales. However, once a baby whale has made it past their first birthday successfully, the risk of falling prey to a predator decreases significantly since they’re more familiar with their surroundings at that point and are capable of swimming faster.

Whales Learn How To Communicate From an Early Age

Just like humans, whales have their own methods of intraspecies communication. While still in utero, baby whales begin to recognize their mother’s unique whistling sound. Upon birth, each calf has its own whistle that essentially acts as a marker of identity within its pod. Additionally, research has demonstrated that baby whales can communicate with their mothers by “whispering.” This method of using soft calls allows baby whales to call out to their moms without being overheard by potential predators.

As they grow older, many types of whales develop louder vocalizations, commonly known as whale songs. These signals can serve purposes in keeping the pod together, identifying potential mates, and alerting others in the pod to potential dangers. Additionally, baby whales begin to learn from a young age how to use vocalizations to socialize with other whales from their species.

Whale-Watching Trips Can Be a Great Way To See Baby Whales in the Wild

Learning about baby whales online can be fascinating, but nothing beats the real thing. If you can’t get enough of these cute creatures and you’re curious to learn more, you may want to look into going on a whale-watching trip. These trips allow you to connect with nature and provide you with the potential opportunity to catch a glimpse of baby whales and adult whales in the wild. For true whale lovers, there’s nothing more exciting!

Whether you’re thinking about booking a whale-watching trip in the near future or whether you’re simply curious about how baby whales develop and communicate, this complete guide can help get you informed. From innate swimming capabilities to distinctive whale sounds to unique feeding techniques and more, there are countless fun facts you could learn about the typical baby whale. Keep this guide handy as you learn more about these majestic creatures, and consider heading to the coast to spot some baby whales in real-time!