Gray Whale

Gray Whale Facts
Size 39-49 ft (12-15 m)
Speed Up to 5 mph (8 km/h)
Weight 20-35 tons
Lifespan 50-60 years
Food Little crabs, worms, small fish
Predators Large sharks, Orcas
Habitat Pacific
Order Whales
Suborder Baleen whales
Family Gray whales
Scientific name Eschrichtius robustus
Characteristics Big whale, related to the humpback whale and the blue whale
Author AnnamarieWhere Does the Name Gray Whale Come From?

This is easy: Because its skin is gray! However, from the distance it appears to be a speckled white, because its skin is cluttered with barnacles and mussels that have settled on its skin.

Searching for Food

The gray whale often stays near the coast, because there it can find lots of food. When looking for food it rolls sideways while moving along the ground of the ocean to gather sludge. Gray whales have very long and robust baleen plates, which they use to filter worms, crabs and snails from the silt.

Gray Whale Gray Whale - Photo: Joe Morris 917/Shutterstock

Off to Mexico

Gray whales living in the Arctic Ocean near Alaska during the summer move to the coasts of Mexico in autumn to hibernate. This takes about 2–3 months. But they stick it out without eating anything during the entire voyage. They only take short naps on the way. Near the Mexican Baja California peninsula the female grey whales give birth to their calves. These eat to become really fat – contrary to their mother. Mum doesn’t eat as there is no krill in the south. The calf gets stronger and stronger, while its mother ist getting weaker and weaker. In spring they get on their way home and many whales just manage to reach their destination because they are terribly exhausted.

Gray Whale Gray Whale - Photo: Jan-Dirk Hansen/Shutterstock


Gray whales put their heads out of the water to look around curiously. This is called “spy hopping”.

Unique Family?

The gray whale is the only whale in the family of gray whales. But why has it been allocated to a separate family instead of other whale families? This is the reason: Right whales have no fin and no folds of skin. The rorqual has both a fin and folds of skin. However, gray whales have characteristics of both families: no fin, but folds of skin.

Gray Whale Gray Whale - Photo: jo Crebbin/Shutterstock

Distinctly Social

It has often been observed that gray whales help their sick or injured fellow species to reach the water surface to breathe.

This fact sheet was submitted by fan Annamarie. Thanks for your amazing article! Do you want to write a fan fact sheet?

Gray Whale Gray Whale - Photo: Jan-Dirk Hansen/Shutterstock

Pupils are welcome to use this information at school for animal profiles, fact sheets, essays, work sheets, presentations, posters or homework. All information appearing on this site has been precisely and thoroughly researched, nevertheless should you notice any errors, please do notify us via email.