Southern Right Whale Information & Facts
Breeding Season (May to October)
The Southern Right Whales come to give birth in the protected bay each year between Mid May to late October. The Female whales generally breed once every three years and bear calves that are about 5.5 m long and 1000—1500 kg at birth. While most Southern Right Whales are black to dark grey with small ventral patches of white, these animals have extensive areas of white sometimes extending well up the flanks or even onto the back and head. Some calves are even born completely white, developing dark markings later in life. Females feed and nurture their young in the shallows where they can best protect their young from predators such as their Killer Whale cousins or the Great White Shark.
Southern Right Whales have horny growths on the top of their head called callosites. The patches are different for each individual which aids identification. The head of a Southern Right Whale is large and the lower jaw line is distinctively bowed. They do not have a fin on the back. The flippers are broad, triangular and flat and the body colour ranges from blue-black to light brown. There are often white markings, usually on the belly. The twin blowholes produce a high, V-shaped blow.
Southern Right Whales are 'baleen' whales which have horny plates of baleen hanging down from their upper jaws. They sieve swarms of plankton from the water through the fibrous inner hairs of the baleen plates. Most feeding is thought to occur in the highly productive polar areas during summer, but they do not move as far south as humpbacks or other baleen whales.
Southern Right Whales regularly engage in tail lobbing, flipper slapping and even head standing. After they breach, the sound of these mammoth acrobats hitting the water can be heard from a great distance. They are usually seen in mother and calf pairs, but occasionally hang out in groups of up to 20. The mammals may moan.
HoB Whale Facts
- Between May and October approximately 100 whales appear at Head of Bight
- Whales at HoB take up 'residence' for the entire 5 month winter period
- HoB is recognised as a calving ground & nursery of international significance for the species
- 2% of Southern Right Whales born at HoB are white and turn grey instead of the usual black
- You are guaranteed to see a whale from June to August
- In June 2014 an aerial scan counted 169 Southern Right Whales, 2 Humpback Whales, a couple of Great White Sharks and lots of Dolphins
- In 2012 55 calves were born at HoB. Of those 55 calves four of them were white
- 1000 whales have been recorded in the HoB region
- Some whales have been observed returning to HoB since 1991
Southern Right Whales were almost hunted to extinction. Because of this, these beautiful creatures have had complete protection since 1937. They are still listed as "vulnerable".
Southern Right Whales are curious animals who often approach boats closely. Please follow the whale watchers code. Boats should not approach closer than 100 metres to a whale, a vessel should not separate a group or mother and calf, aircraft should not fly lower than 500 meters above a whale and, if you are in the water and a whale approaches, you must stay at least 30 metres from the whale. If you should spot a whale entangled in rope or fishing equipment call the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities so the department's special whale and dolphin disentanglement team can help the animal. Click here for further information on Whale Watching Guidelines.