Humpback Whale - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Photo Credit: Scott Geitler
Photo Credit: Scott Geitler

Fact Sheet

Common Name: Humpback Whale

Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae

Length as an adult: Adults measure 35-50 feet (10.7-15.2 meters)

Weight as an adult: Adults weigh 23-30 tons (20,865-27,215 kilograms)

Length and weight at birth: A newborn weighs 1-2 tons (907-1814 kilograms) and is about 13-16 feet (4-5 meters) at birth.

Time spent nursing: Almost one year

Length of pregnancy: One year

Range: Wide ranging because of seasonal changes in distribution. Spend summers in high-latitude, cold-water feeding grounds and winter in low-latitude, warm-water breeding grounds.

Likelihood of being seen on a whale watch in Massachusetts coastal waters: Very High

Preferred food: Krill, plankton, and small fish

Unusual characteristics: Their flippers (pectoral fins) are unusually long – up to approximately 20 feet.

Appearance: Black or dark gray upper side, low stubby fin with hump, large stocky body, long white or black flippers, knobs on head and lower jaw, flukes raised before dive, irregular wavy edges on flukes, single bushy blow, and may be inquisitive.

General Information: Baleen whale, complex and cooperative feeding techniques. Calves don’t stop growing until they are ten years old. They begin to breed around the ages of 6-11 years old. Lifespan is 40 years.

Unusual habits: Tend to stay calm while scientists cut them out of the nets. They are the most acrobatic of the large whales.

Population Status: Population is estimated at about 18,000-20,000.

Threats: Getting caught in fishing nets and other marine pollution, human disturbance, ship strike


  • Carwardine, Mark. Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995.
  • 1950s, the, and blue whales were endangered. "Whale Facts and Information." ECO TWINZ- Twins Days Memories & Whale Watching Adventures.
  • "Humpback Whales, Humpback Whale Pictures, Humpback Whale Facts – National Geographic." Animals – Animal Pictures – Wild Animal Facts – Nat Geo Wild – National Geographic.

Prepared by: Alyssa Do Couto

Last modified: May 22, 2013