How Humpback Calves Get Separated

How Humpback calves get separated from their mothers during the migration is usually caused by a few different situations. Thankfully we don’t often observe this separation from mother and calf but on occasion throughout the northern and southern migration young calves can be found stranded on local beaches. It is a very sad situation and sometimes the calves can be guided back to sea in hopes that their mother is still within the area so they can be reunited. The three main reasons for how Humpback calves get separated are;

Competition Pod

Bachelor males are always on the lookout for females and often during the northern migration should a female have her calf further south then she has a higher likelihood of bumping into more bachelor males. The last few days we have observed a couple of mother and calves being chased by bachelor males in Flinders Bay. During the chase the males are completely focused on the female and the calf can easily be separated during the competition. The speed and intensity of the  competition is very difficult for a calf to keep up with and sometimes they will become separated from their mum during the encounter.


Orca and sharks are a young calves biggest predators with both always on the lookout for young newborns. The mothers do a very good job of protecting their calves but sometimes the intensity of an Orca attack is very difficult for the mother whales to defend and outmanoeuvre from the Orca which results in a successful hunt for the apex predators or a calf separated from mum.

Adverse Weather

Rough weather can be a cause for a mother and calf to seperate, especially storms further south with large weather fronts a regular occurrence during winter. Calves need to surface every few minutes to breathe which puts them amongst the worst of the weather. Should a storm front be prolonged it can be very tiring for a calf which could cause them to become disoriented and lose track of their mum in very rough conditions.

Today we had a female Humpback Whale who was travelling without a calf and had all intentions of finding a perfect male today. She began to fluke slap repeatedly before launching into enormous breaching as she gathered together al the bachelor males within the vicinity. The intensity of this pod was exhilarating as they charged through Flinders Bay. The boys were very physical as they pushed and shoved showing off their strength. The female encouraged them to keep following as they covered ground and challenged the males to keep up to assist her in making the right decision. Today was a great example of just how intense these pods can become and certainly not a suitable situation for a young calf to be involved in. Eventually the female will choose one of the males and should they mate she will return to our coastline next year to give birth to her calf. During next season her behaviour will be very different as she does all she can to keep a low profile and hide from the males, instead enjoying time with her newborn.

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