Language of the Whales™ – Male Humpback Behaviour
Today we had the fantastic opportunity to observe male Humpback behaviour as on both our morning and afternoon tours the males displayed their unique ways of their communication. Our first encounter for the morning though was with our fifth Humpback mother and calf pod for season 2019. A healthy young calf and relaxed mum were cruising, seeming interested as she gently swam towards us. We didn’t spend long and wished both mother and calf a safe and successfully journey ahead. Breaching on the horizon first captured our attention and as we approached the area we joined with two young adult Humpbacks. Observing their rambunctious behaviour between each other and body scarring, we could tell that these two young males were travelling in a bachelor pod. Travelling with them we were also completely surrounded by offshore Bottlenose Dolphin who were having a wonderfully fun morning bow riding with the Humpbacks.
During this time of year it is important for males to seek out the females and these two males had appeared to have found a target just up ahead. An increase in speed and excitement levels among the two was observed as they started to race up to the escort pod just ahead. Almost bursting with excitement, one of these young males launched into an enormous breach to show off his size and let the female know he was on his way over.
Spectacular as it was, the strong message was sent to the pod ahead and in response to the surface activity they took off at speed. Perhaps not the ideal response these bachelor males were looking for, but at least they are young and will learn from any mistakes they make along the way. Unfortunately for them the female and her escort managed to put on an extra bit of distance and retained a good reactionary distance from the young bachelor males. The males were not deterred and continued to follow after the escort pod as they rounded the cape and continued north, maybe they will try a sneakier and quieter approach next time if they can get close enough!
The perfect conditions continued into the afternoon as another round of breaching up ahead alerted us to something beginning. Upon arrival we watched as an adult Humpback launched sideways out of the water and it appeared that this whale was desperately trying to avoid something underneath. Within moments we could see what that something was, an enormous Humpback surged alongside this white bellied whale. As the afternoon unfolded we observed as this female Humpback had caught the attention of a big male, he appeared very forward and seemed to be trying to attempt to mate with this female. She continued to roll away and even swam around and underneath us a few times just to get ahead of this male. No other males close by meant that all the energy and testosterone was being directed towards this female and not towards other challenging males. She didn’t seem all that pleased and as they both raced across Flinders Bay we could see she was trying to somehow get rid of this annoying big male!
He did eventually calm down though, and with much persistence and patience on the females behalf it seemed to pay off as they both swam alongside each other after over an hour of avoidance tactics. He was still not 100% accepted by this female and she seemed to keep him one body length away from her at all times. Male Humpback behaviour can be persistent, loud and confident during the northern migration as the breeding season gets underway and it is always fascinating to observe the incredible Language of the Whales™ unfold in front of us.