Blue Whale

(Balaenoptera musculus)
Blue Whale Santa Barbara Channel
Blue Whales in the Santa Barbara Channel - Photo Credit: Bob Perry

If you hope to witness the surfacing of a great blue whale, plan your whale watching cruise with us for one of the summer months when these whales are known to feed off the coast of California. The blue whale is a member of the baleen whale family and part of the whale suborder known as Mysticeti. The blue whale is listed as the largest living creature to have ever lived on the planet. Imagine sighting one of these spell-binding mammals in the flesh!

The blue whale has 5 subspecies that include the Northern Subspecies, the Antarctic Subspecies, the Pygmy Subspecies, the northern Indian Ocean Subspecies and the Chilean Subspecies. The blue whales that swim in the Pacific waters near the Santa Barbara Channel and the Channel Islands are members of the Northern Subspecies. The female blue whales average about 82 feet in length, and the male blue whale is approximately 79 feet in length.

The blue whale’s body shape is slender and long. Blue whales appear in tones of mottled gray-blue with lighter colors on the belly. Color patterns and shading help to help identify individuals. Life expectancy for blue whales in the wild is between 80 and 90 years.

The blue whale feed on a diet of krill, which are small shrimp-like creatures. The blue whale hunts using an open mouth technique, where it gulps massive amounts of water and krill. The blue whale then uses its tongue to push the excess water out and the baleen filters out the krill. The blue whale may hunt on the surface or at depths of approximately 330 feet. The blue whale appears to roll while performing the feeding task. This habit is believed to aid the blue whale in spotting dark gray patches or krill that will be engulfed in the next lunge.

The blue whale uses vocalizations for communications. The blue whale is known to vocalize loudly at a very low frequency. There are believed to be at least a dozen song types. These whale songs may be used for help identify individual blue whales or species, for feeding, courtship, or alarm, and topographic features.