Whale
Research: Summaries

alaskan humpbacks

hawaiians and humpbacks

mating and reproduction

migration and habitat use

role of size

social behavior on winter grounds

whale song

whale research publications

dolphin research

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Migration and Habitat Use

Migration into Hawaiian waters. 

Our aerial surveys showed that the influx into and exodus from the different Hawaiian Islands was not uniform (Herman et al., 1980; Baker & Herman 1981).  The Big Island, on average, showed the earliest peak in abundance of whales and declined most rapidly.  Population numbers on Maui tended to peak somewhat later than on the Big Island, followed in turn by later peaks in Penguin Bank and Oahu.  Altogether, peak abundance followed a successively later date from the southeast to the northwest, with only Kauai seemingly being independent of this trend.

Migration between winter and summer grounds.

Photographic identification of whales in different regions of the North Pacific revealed extensive fidelity of individual whales to particular feeding grounds, with little exchange between feeding grounds.  Whales wintering in Hawaii traveled to summer feeding grounds throughout the coastal waters of Alaska, with most found in southeast Alaskan waters (Baker, Herman, Perry, Lawton et al., 1986).

Migration between different winter grounds.   

Three humpback whales were photographically identified in different years in the Hawaiian and Japanese winter grounds (in waters off Ogasawara).  Two of these whales were seen first in Hawaii, them Japan, and then Hawaii again in three different years (Salden, Herman, Yamaguchi & Sato, 1999).  These whales were likely males, based on their roles as escorts.  These findings illustrate that there may be some genetic exchange among whales from different areas of the North Pacific, and that males may prospect widely in their search for mating opportunities.

Sex differences in site fidelity and migration.

Based on photographic recaptures of individual humpback whales in Hawaiian waters, we determined that males showed greater fidelity to the winter grounds than did females, as evidenced by a greater resight probability for males. (Craig & Herman, 1997).  The findings suggested that not all females may undertake the annual migration to the winter, or may become pregnant enroute to the winter grounds and return immediately to the high-latitude feeding areas.

Winter habitat preferences of female humpbacks. 


Females that were photographically identified at both Maui and the Big Island in different years were with a calf significantly more often in Maui waters than in Big Island waters.  Thus, habitat utilization by female whales appears to depend in part on their reproductive status (Craig & Herman 2000).

Baker, C. S., Herman, L. M., Perry, A., Lawton, W. S., Straley, J. M., Wolman, A. A., Kaufman, G. D., Winn, H. E., Hall, J. D., Reinke, J. M., & Ostman, J. (1986).  Migratory movement and population structure of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Central and Eastern North Pacific.  Marine Ecology Progress Series  31, 105-119.

Baker, C. S. and Herman, L. M.  (1981).  Migration and local movement of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) through Hawaiian waters.  Canadian Journal of Zoology  59, 460-469.

Craig, A. S., & Herman, L. M. (2000).  Habitat preferences of female humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae in the Hawaiian Islandsare associated with reproductive status. Marine Ecology Progress Series  193, 209-216.

Craig, A. S., & Herman, L. M. (1997).  Sex differences in site fidelity and migration of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) to the Hawaiian Islands.  Canadian Journal of Zoology  75, 1923-1933.

Herman, L. M., Forestell, P. H. & Antinoja, R. C. (1980).  Study of the 1976/77 migration of humpback whales into Hawaiian waters:  Composite description.  Final report to the U.S.Marine Mammal Commission (Report No. MMC-77/19).  United StatesNational Technical Information Services, Arlington, VA.

Salden, D. R., Herman, L. M., Yamaguchi, M., & Sato, F. (1999).  Multiple visits of individual humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) between the Hawaiian and Japanese winter grounds.  Canadian Journal of Zoology  77, 504-508.

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