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” What Do Whales Eat?”

Humpback whales lunge feeding

Humpback whales lunge feeding with Anchovies jumping out of their mouths

Whales, the giants of the ocean, with their immense size what do whale eat to get so big?  , One of the most fascinating aspects of these magnificent creatures is their diet and how they vary from each other. From the krill-munching blue whale to the deep-diving sperm whale, each species has its own unique feeding habits and preferences. Whales, despite their immense size, exhibit a surprising diversity in their dietary preferences. From the filter-feeding giants to the deep-diving predators, each species has its own unique culinary habits.

In this blog, we’ll learn the feeding habits of humpback, blue, sperm, and gray whales eat, uncovering some surprising facts along the way.

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

The humpback whale, known for its acrobatic breaches and haunting songs, is a baleen whale found in oceans around the world. These gentle giants primarily feed on small fish and krill, using their baleen plates to filter their prey from the water.

Diet: Humpback whales have a varied diet that includes small schooling fish such as herring, sardines, anchovies and mackerel. They also consume krill, a tiny crustacean that forms dense swarms in certain areas of the ocean.

Feeding Behavior: Humpback whales are known for their unique feeding techniques, from lunge feeding on schools of baitfish, in which they lunge out of the water with mouths wide open to trap the small fish in their mouths and then filter the water out or bubble net feeding. Working together in groups, they blow bubbles in a circular pattern around a school of fish, creating a “net” that traps their prey. Then, they swim through the concentrated school with their mouths open, filtering out the water with their baleen plates and swallowing the trapped fish and krill.

Fun Fact: Despite their massive size, humpback whales are surprisingly agile hunters. They can lunge forward with incredible speed, engulfing large quantities of prey in a single gulp.

Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

The blue whale holds the title of the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth, dwarfing even the largest dinosaurs. These magnificent creatures have a voracious appetite, consuming vast quantities of tiny krill to fuel their massive bodies.

Diet: Blue whales are true krill connoisseurs, feeding almost exclusively on these small, shrimp-like crustaceans. They can consume up to 4 tons of krill in a single day, using their baleen plates to filter the tiny organisms from the water.

Feeding Behavior: Blue whales are efficient feeders, using a technique known as lunge feeding to engulf large volumes of krill in a single mouthful. They accelerate towards their prey with their mouths wide open, taking in enormous quantities of water and krill before filtering out the water through their baleen plates.  Others are skimmers; they swim along with their mouths wide open before straining out the prey from the water

Fun Fact: A blue whale’s tongue alone can weigh as much as an elephant ( up to 8000lbs) , A blue whale mouth is so large and wide another blue whale could swim into it. Their large mouths provide ample space to accommodate the massive volumes of water and krill they take in during feeding.

Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

The sperm whale is perhaps best known for its deep-diving abilities, plunging thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface in search of prey. These formidable predators have a varied diet that includes a wide range of marine creatures.  Sperm whales are the largest tooth predator in the world

Diet: Sperm whales have a diverse diet that includes fish, squid, octopus, and even small sharks. They are skilled hunters, using echolocation to locate their prey in the dark depths of the ocean.

Feeding Behavior: Sperm whales are deep divers, capable of descending to depths of over 3,000 feet in search of food. They use their powerful jaws and sharp teeth to capture their prey, often hunting in groups to increase their chances of success.

Fun Fact: Sperm whales are known for their distinctive spermaceti organ, which contains a waxy substance called Spermaceti.  Spermaceti is created in the spermaceti organ inside the whale’s head. This organ may contain as much as 500 gallons of spermaceti.  It was prized and had been extracted by whalers since the 17th century for human use in cosmetics, textiles, and candles. Despite their name, the function of this organ is believed to play a role in buoyancy control and is involved in the generation of sound for echolocation.

Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

The gray whale is known for its epic migration, traveling thousands of miles between its feeding grounds in the Arctic and its breeding grounds in the warm waters of Baja California, Mexico. These bottom-feeding whales have a unique diet that sets them apart from other species.

Diet: Gray whales are bottom feeders, using their baleen plates to filter small crustaceans, mollusks, and other invertebrates from the sandy seafloor. They are particularly fond of amphipods, tiny shrimp-like creatures that abound in the shallow waters of their feeding grounds.

Feeding Behavior: Gray whales use a technique known as “headstanding”.  Gray whales suck sediment and food from the sea floor by rolling on their sides and swimming slowly along, filtering their food through 130 to 180 coarse baleen plates on each side of their upper jaw. In doing so, they often leave long trails of mud behind them and “feeding pits” on the seafloor.

Fun Fact: Gray whales are known for their friendly and curious behavior, often approaching boats to investigate. This curiosity has earned them the nickname “friendlies” among whale watchers.


Whales are truly remarkable creatures, each with its own unique feeding habits and preferences. From the acrobatic humpback to the bottom-feeding gray whale, these majestic animals play a vital role in the health of the ocean ecosystem. By understanding more about what whales eat, we can gain a deeper appreciation for these magnificent creatures and the delicate balance of life in the sea.

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