Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Gray Whale

Eschrichtius robustus


Fun Facts

    The gray whale is a baleen whale.

    Gray whales travel south annually to Mexico to give birth in lagoons.



  The gray whale is a type of marine mammal that is found both offshore and in coastal waters. They are distributed in an eastern North Pacific (North American) population and a critically endangered western North Pacific (Asian) population. The body is a dark slate-gray color with gray patches and white mottling. They reach a length of 49 feet (14.9 meters). Gray whales feed mainly on benthic crustaceans. They feed by turning on its side and scooping up sediments from the sea floor. The baleen acts like a sieve (or filter) to capture small sea animals, including amphipods. They feed in the northern waters of Alaska during the summer and travel south to Mexico in the winter. Each October, small groups of whales start a two- to three-month, 5,000 to 6,800 mile (8,000 to 11,000 km) trip south. This round trip of 9,900 to 14,000 miles (16,000 to 22,000 km) is believed to be the longest annual migration of any mammal. By late December to early January, they arrive in the calving lagoons of Baja Mexico. These first whales to arrive are usually pregnant mothers looking for the protection of the lagoons to give birth, along with single females looking for mates. By mid-February to mid-March, most of the population has arrived in the lagoons, including nursing, calving and mating whales. Nursing gray whale calves drink 190 to 300 gallons of 53% fat milk per day. Gray whales lives between 55 and 70 years. More information on gray whales can be found at the Aquarium in the Whales & Dolphins Room and in the courtyard.