Sunday, July 25, 2010

Depoe Bay Whale Watching

Gray Whales, What do they Eat
Gray whales are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat food from a wide range of sources. Along the coast of Depoe Bay, Oregon, it appears they feed on mysid shrimp found at the edge of kelp beds. Billions of mysids are found in the waters off Depoe Bay. In the Bering and Chukchi Seas in Alaska, they feed on bottom sediments packed with amphipods. There have been studies that have shown that prey items included anphipods, crab larvae, krill, ghost shrimp, pelagic red crabs, skeleton shrimp, mysids, small fish, polychaete worms and other organisms.

How They Eat:
Gray whales are baleen whales and they are in the Mysticeti category which means moustache whale. In place of teeth on the upper jaw, the Mysticetes have a series of overlapping plates made of keratin its the same substance as your fingernails. The inner margin of each plate, next to the tongue, is fringed with bristles that trap organisms but still allows water to pass through.

Hanging from the top jaw of a gray whale are blonde colored baleen plates about one foot long. The inside edges of these plates have bristles which trap food organisms like mysid shrimp or crab larvae. Like all baleen whales, gray whales draw in food-laden sea water and push it through the baleen plates, filtering out food with the bristles.

Heres how it works:
The gray whale depresses its 2000 pound tongue. This forms a suction and a piston that brings in water and small food items. Once the food-laden water is inside the mouth, the tongue is lifted up and the mysids become trapped on the inside edges of the baleen plates and the water leaves through the openings of the baleen plates. The tongue licks these bristles clean and then the prey move through the grapefruit-sized throat. Two to five throat grooves also expand when the whales feed to increase the surface area. Baleen plates hang from the roof of the mouth and these one foot long baleen plates filter food like mysids from the water.

Where They Eat:
Resident gray whales are most commonly seen feeding in and around kelp beds in water depths of 10 feet. Huge swarms of mysids live in these kelp beds during spring, summer and early fall. These huge swarms range from 3 to 20 feet thick and have billions of mysids. One gray whale is estimated to eat a ton of these mysids per day. One sign of grays feeding on these mysids is when a partial fluke is exposed at the surface.

A Closer Look At Gray Whales
The most conspicuous identifying characteristics of gray whales are their size, distinctive mottled gray coloring, dorsal hump (no dorsal fin) and the knuckles along the back behind the dorsal hump.

Size: Gray whales range in size from 35 to 45 feet long, and weigh 30 to 40 tons­about the length of a school bus and the weight of ten elephants, mush larger than a diver. Females weigh more and are longer than the males. Gray whales are intermediate in size in comparison with other well-known whales. By comparison, blue whales are 80 to 100 feet long and orcas (killer whales) are 20-25 feet long.

Coloration: Gray whales are so called because of their mottled gray coloration. The natural pigmentation can range from almost black to almost white, and can include white spots that range from the size of a marble to a basketball.This mottled appearance is enhanced by barnacles, barnacle scars, and whale lice.

Rostrum (Head Region): The rostrum extends from the tip of the snout to the blowholes, a length of about six feet. The rostrum of adult gray whales is covered with barnacles and whale lice. Gray whales that feed on the bottom, rub off barnacles and leave barnacle scars. Young gray whales have a dimpled rostrum with one hair in each dimple.

Eyes: The eyes of the gray whale are brown in color and the size of an orange. Eyes are located at the end of the mouth line, seven or eight feet from the rostrum tip.

Blow: The gray whale blow is 6-10 feet high and is heart-shaped if seen from behind on a calm day. About 100 gallons of air is expelled from the blow at speeds that range from 150 and 200 miles per hour.

Dorsal Hump: Gray whales have no dorsal fin, instead they have a dorsal hump at the end of the back.

Knuckles: 6-12 bumps called knuckles are seen behind the gray whale's dorsal hump. In some whales they are very distinct and in others they are not.

Baleen Plates: 300 blonde baleen plates about one foot long hanq from the top jaw. Bristles on the inside edges of those plates trap food organisms.

Blowholes: Gray whales have two blowholes like all baleen whales.

Throat Grooves: Two to five throat grooves on the bottom of the throat expand when the whales are feeding.

Flippers: Behind the throat grooves are pointed, paddle-shaped flippers.

Tail Fluke: An adult's tail fluke is 9 feet wide. When the tail fluke goes under the ocean's surface it leaves a characteristic print called a "fluke print".

Flukeprint: A large circle of smooth water formed by tail fluke turbulence when a whale dives.

Something new this year we are offering are sweatshirts that have our Whales Tail logo on the back, different colors and sizes are available.

Thank you for your interest in whale watching on the Whales Tail. I am sure that you will have a fun and a memorable experience. If you're looking to go whale watching tomorrow, please give us a call at 1-800-733-8915 or 1-541-765-2545. To make a reservation for whale watching, just send the requested information below. I will get back with you as soon as possible.

Daily Trip Times
8:00am, 9:30am, 11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm, 3:30pm, 5:00pm, 6:30pm

Trip Date
Number of People

If you would like to make reservations you can E-mail at

Thank you for visiting our website, we hope to see you aboard the Whales Tail.

For more information on Whales Watching visit:

For more information on Dockside Charters and the Whales Tail visit: Oregon Whale Watching

Dockside Charters
270 Coast Guard Pl.
Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341

Phone: 541-765-2545
Toll Free: 1-800-733-8915