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Why do Whales Migrate to Hawaii?

Humpback whales

Northern Pacific Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are migratory mammals that travel long distances every year between their feeding and breeding grounds. The northern Pacific population of humpback whales, which includes whales that migrate to Hawaii, feed in the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the North Pacific Ocean during the summer months, and breed in the warm, shallow waters of the tropics during the winter months.


So… Why do Whales Migrate to Hawaii?


Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii and other winter breeding grounds in the tropics and subtropics to give birth to their calves, thanks to the warm, shallow waters off the coast of these regions – providing a safe and protected environment for the whales to bear and nurture their young.


While visiting the archipelago, humpbacks do not feed, as the primary reason for their journey is to mate and for female whales to give birth and fatten up their young. During their migration, the whales rely on their stored fat reserves to sustain them throughout the season. This period of fasting is known as “migration fasting,” and it allows the whales to conserve energy for the long journey and to devote their resources to reproduction and lactation once they reach their breeding grounds.


Giant Prey?


Humpback whales are generally not preyed upon by other animals, although they may occasionally fall victim to attacks by killer whales (also known as orcas).  The calves, on the other hand, are much more vulnerable to orcas, which may be another reason why these whales choose to birth their calves where there are no orcas.  In general, humpback whales are able to defend themselves against predators due to their size and the strength of their fluke (tail), which they can use to strike and deter attackers.


The females give birth to their calves during the winter months and nurse them until they are strong enough to make the long journey back to their feeding grounds in the north. The males also migrate to the breeding grounds to mate with females.


Want to learn more about the Northern Pacific Humpback Whale?

Book a private whale watching tour with MANA Cruises and let our knowledgable staff teach you more about these incredible mammals that visit us during our winter months!


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