Gray Whale

Scientific Name:
Eschrichtius robustus
16 m (52 ft)
50,000-80,000 kg
good to go
Benthic crustaceans, amphipods

Physical characteristics

Their natural color is dark gray. Their skin is often discolored from barnacle scars left on the skin. The gray whale is a baleen whale, and has two blowholes. The calves have hairs around the front of their heads. There are between 9 and 14 dorsal nodules on their dorsal side, and their blow can reach up to 15 feet.

Behavioral characterization

Use technique of turning over sediment when feeding. They have also displayed aggressive, fighting behavior when hunted.


Eastern North Pacific (North American) population and a critically endangered western North Pacific (Asian) population.

Population size



Orcas and humans.

Migration/Dispersal patterns

Each October, as the northern ice pushes southward, small groups of eastern gray whales in the eastern Pacific start a two- to three-month, 8,000–11,000 kilometers (5,000–6,800 mi) trip south. Beginning in the Bering and Chukchi seas and ending in the warm-water lagoons of Mexico's Baja peninsula and the southern Gulf of California, they travel along the west coast of Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Social system/Group size

Individual unless with calf.

Major threats

Orca, whaling, and makah indian tribe traditions of killing gray whales every year.

Research efforts

Wayne Perryman at SWSFC on calving rate in relation to ice coverage.

Fun fact

The gray whale became extinct in the North Atlantic in the 18th century.