Why Do Whales Migrate?

There are currently about 80 known species of Cetacea in existence and within the many different species there are several different types of migration that have been found to occur amongst the various species of whale.

Below is a list of 4 common reasons why whales migrate.

1) They migrate for mating and feeding purposes.

2) They migrate primarily to maintain their food supply.

3) They are wanderers and travel the world without any notable migration pattern.

4) They do not migrate and maintain a fixed distance from their home location all year round.

Here is an example of 4 different species of whale that follow different migration patterns.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are a migratory species and are commonly known for making one of the longest migration trips of any animal.

During feeding season they can often be found swimming near the upper and lower hemispheres gathering food.

When mating season comes around they make their yearly trip towards the center of the equator (to tropical environments) where the temperature is warmer and they can mate and bare offspring.

Humpback whales can travel distances of 16,000 miles during these trips and will fast during their migration living off of stored energy in their fat reserves.

Killer Whales

Killer whales typically prefer living in cold water although they can be found swimming in all of the large oceans of the world from the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropical regions near the center of the equator.

Unlike humpback whales which follow certain migration pattens killer whale tends to migrate toward wherever their food source goes.

In some regions the migration of killer whales are influenced by fish and various other pray that occupy the area.

In other locations where marine mammal are found in abundance killer whales will move in response to where seals or sea lions migrating to.

Note: Although the killer whale uses the word “whale” in its name it is actually considered a dolphin.

Sperm Whales

Male sperm whales are wanderers and in some cases may end up traveling the entire worlds oceans throughout their 70 year lifespan.

While these whales do migrate towards warmer tropical climates during mating periods male whales don’t follow a particular route or have any notable migration patterns.

Males are largely solitary creatures and typically leave their nest as they mature creating their own paths and traveling to various parts of the world.

Bowhead Whales

Unlike other species of whale that migrate between seasons bowhead whales typically maintain a fixed location all year round.

These whale are often found swimming in the Arctic/sub Arctic waters and may make short trips to other area’s in the upper northern hemisphere such as the Bering sea, Beaufort sea and Chukchi sea.