The humpback whale is one of the largest marine mammals in existence.
This large marine mammals is part of the baleen whale suborder and is known to consume a number of different small prey such as squid, krill, herring, pollock, haddock, mackerel, capelin, salmon and various other fish.
The humpback whales large diet makes these whales one of the most diverse eaters within the baleen whale family.
While the adult humpback whale is known for its diverse diet the baby humpback whales start their journey by consuming milk, which they suckle from their mothers nipple until they reach a point where they are able to hunt for food and survive on their own.
The thick paste like milk they receive from their mother is packed full of fat and various nutrients to allow the baby humpback to grow into a healthy adult and provides the baby whale with nutrition until it can get its food from other sources such as fish, squid and krill.
Because the humpback whale is a baleen whale it does not possess teeth so it must capture its food using various hunting methods.
One technique these whales are known to use is known as bubble netting.
Bubble netting is a group activity that can involve up to several dozen humpback whales.
One group of whales will swim below a large group of fish and form a circle which they use to herd the fish together.
The group then begins blowing bubbles to enclose and shrink the circle of fish and compact the fish into a tight herd.
Some whales may also dive deeper and force the fish upwards where they become trapped in the bubble net.
Once they’ve herded the fish together they can then take turns swimming through the herd consuming as many fish as possible using a filter feeding method.
Filter feeding involves a baleen whale swimming towards a group of fish or krill with its mouth open.
The baleen bristles in their mouth act as a filter by trapping the prey in the bristles while allowing water to filter through.
After gathering a large group of fish or krill in its mouth the whale pushes the excess water out its mouth with its tongue while keeping the prey trapped inside its baleen bristles.
Once the water is expelled the whale can then swallow its food whole.
Although humpback whales can consume large quantities of food they are known to fast for large portions of time during the fall/winter and will live primarily off of the fat they stored from the food they’ve eaten during the summer months.
During the winter these whales may continue to hunt prey but it’s often rare and only at select times.
When the winter season rolls around these whales are primarily focused on mating and spend very little time hunting or foraging for food.
In fact for many species such as the humpback whale the fall/winter time is known as their mating season.
During mating season these marine mammals spend several months traveling to their mating grounds, performing mating rituals, giving birth and socializing.
Once the spring/summer time rolls around the humpback whale begins its long journey back to its feeding grounds where it can stock up on food, relax and prepare for the next mating season.