Interesting behavior

On Wednesday morning, I departed from Ma’alaea Harbor on board of Ocean Intrigue 8 am whale watching. It was a pretty windy morning, as usual, trades were blowing about 7-10 knots, Ma’alaea harbor is known to be the second windiest harbor in the world! Even though it was windy, the whale watching was great and interesting; we encountered a sub adult whale that displayed an unusual behavior in breeding grounds.

The sub adult was very close to shore in shallow waters of about 67 feet , it was displaying all kinds of behaviors; tail slapping, tail extension, pectoral fin slapping… but at one point it displayed a very interesting and atypical Humpback whale behavior in breeding grounds. The sub adult laterally lunged itself and gulped a large amount of water, exposing the baleen (feeding structure that filter the food like a strainer) and expanding its ventral pleats (grooves on its ventral side that goes from the throat to its chest and are used to increase its mouth size when they are feeding); a behavior most associate with feeding. It is very interesting because humpback whales are not known to feed in Hawaiian waters. The reason they are not feeding in these waters is because Hawaii does not offer their food source such as krill, capelin and herring.

This behavior is the second reported this year in the presence of a whale watch boat. Why are they ,usually sub-adults, displaying this behavior in nutrient-poor waters? Are they really feeding opportunistically on small fish on Hawaiian waters? Not sure… What we know is that if whales come across their food source they would definitely feed on them. We departed shortly after the behavior was observed and I don’t know if the whale kept doing or was just one time behavior/feeding. It’s hard to know exactly what was going on. The only thing I am sure is that feeding behavior is awesome to watch, I have always heard about the behavior of humpbacks feeding, but never witness one, it was the first time and loved the experience!