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Cape Cod Common Large Whales of New England

Whale watching is a very popular activity on Cape Cod. Whale watch excursions run regularly from Barnstable Harbor, Provincetown and Plymouth. Here is a list of the large whales most often seen in Cape Cod area waters:

Humpback Whale (Size: Up to 55 feet in length)

Features: Mostly black with long white flippers, bumps on head and distinctive, variably sized dorsal fin.
Usually lifts the tail when diving.
Distinctive black and white pattern underneath.
Range: During spring, summer and fall these whales are found most often around the sloping sides of the banks and ledges of the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and the continental shelf south of the Islands.
Food: Mostly small schooling fish like sand lance, herring, young mackerel, and krill.

Finback Whale (Size: Up to 80 feet in length)

Features: Grayish, sleek whale with tall, curved dorsal fin. Head lighter on right side.
Rarely lifts tail.
Range: Same areas as the Humpback whale, but not always at the same time.
Food: Same as Humpback whale.

North Atlantic Right Whale (very rare)* (Size: Up to 60 feet long)

Features: Stocky, mostly black whale with no dorsal fin and rough white patches on head.
Usually lifts black, triangular tail when high diving.
Range: Winter/Spring in Cape Cod Bay & Great South Channel. Summer/Fall in Bay of Fundy & Roseway Basin.
Food: Small animal plankton, mostly copepods.
* With about 300 remaining, both Massachusetts and federal regulations establish a 500 yard buffer zone around this species. That zone can only be entered with special authorization from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Minke Whale (Size: Up to 30 feet in length)

Features: Sickle-shaped dorsal fin, white bands on flippers, with no visible breath (spout).
Rarely lifts tail.
Range: Same as Humpback and Finback whales, but also found in closer to shore.
Food: Same as Humpback and Finback whales. Sometimes eats single discarded fish.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 07/20/06
Categories: Nature
Keywords: critters, nature, whales, Humpback Whale, Right Whale, Minke Whale, Finback Whale


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