Gray Whale Migration

The gray whale has the longest known migration of any mammal in the world. They can travel an incredible 16,000-22,000 km round trip (10,000-13,700 miles) during their migration. With winter calving grounds in Mexico and summer feeding grounds in the Arctic, they average roughly 120 km (75 miles) per day with an average speed of 8 km/h (5 mph).

The gray whales start to arrive in the warm waters off the coast of Mexico in December-January. The lagoons provide protection for pregnant mothers to give birth and begin to raise their calves. The lagoons are also a place for single whales to find mates.

The first gray whales, usually males and females without calves, begin to leave in February and March. Females with calves are the last to leave, typically between March-May. They then begin the journey north to the icy waters of the Arctic in search of their main food source. Throughout their migration they typically stay relatively close to the shoreline, and are always keeping an eye out for potential threats. Orcas, or killer whales, are known to hunt gray whale calves.

Quick Facts

Lifespan: 55-70 years

Length: 13-15 meters

Weight: 15-33 tonnes

Gray whales are baleen whales, meaning they use baleen plates to filter-feed instead of teeth.

Photo credit: José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez