WHY DO WHALES BREACH?

Princess Monterey Whale Watching

whale breaching in front of boat

We are not sure exactly why whales breach, but there are several theories, so let’s take a closer look at this fascinating behavior in which a whale lunges 75% of its body out of the water and lands on its side or back.

Cleansing. Parasites love feeding on a whale by attaching themselves to their bodies. Perhaps it’s this reason why whales breach – to cleanse themselves from those pesky parasites residing on their bodies. By breaching, a whale could potentially shake these annoying critters off.

Communicating. It is known that whales sing as a form of communication, but could they also use breaching to send a message? Scientists say that male humpbacks, for example, may be putting on a show to attract a partner, or simply communicate to another whale that it is leaving the area and changing course.

Claiming Territory. Perhaps their breaching is a territorial action. If a whale feels threatened by other animals, people, or ships, it may be trying to intimidate them away by this forceful act. As it slams its full body into the water with maximum force, it creates a resounding “crack” as it hits the water. That sound is amplified under water and hopefully scares off the predator that caused the breach.

Play. It is entirely possible that whales are breaching just for the sheer joy of jumping out of the water!

Checking Things Out. Similar to spyhopping, breaching may be a way for a whale to check out its surroundings or see what’s going on. Whales are curious creatures and have been known to check out things around them, including people on a whale watching boat.

Twisting and turning and smacking back into the water is such a fun action to watch and here in Monterey Bay, we see it quite often. In fact, some whales breach multiple times in a row putting on quite the show.

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