Anchovies spark humpback feeding frenzy in Monterey Bay

by on October 04, 2013

 
A humpback whale in the Monterey Bay uses 'lunge feeding' to feast upon the masses of anchovies currently in the Bay. Photo: Tory Kallman
 

 

On September 22nd, 2013, amateur photographer Tory Kallman joined captain and naturalist Nancy Black on an all-day whale watch fundraiser for the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of the humpback whales that enter Monterey Bay to feed on krill in the summer months,  Kallman was instead treated to the spectacle of a whale feeding frenzy.

This year, an explosion of anchovies in the bay has provided a feast not only for humpback whales but also for sea lions, brown pelicans, and even the largest of all mammals, the blue whales.

Sea lions and brown pelicans are among other species enjoying the huge runs of anchovies.

Sea lions and brown pelicans are among other species enjoying the huge runs of anchovies. Photo: Tory Kallman

A humpback whale lunges for anchovies during a feeding frenzy. Photo: Tory Kallman

A humpback whale lunges for anchovies during a feeding frenzy. Photo: Tory Kallman

According to Kallman, the group of humpback whales were engaged in a feeding behavior called ‘cooperative lunge feeding.’

The whales blow large underwater bubbles that herd the fish into tight schools or ‘bait balls.’ The whales then lunge upward in unison, mouths open, catching large mouthfuls of the fish and straining out the water through their baleen plates.

Humpback whales use their bristle-like baleen plates to filter out the water and eat the fish.

Humpback whales use their bristle-like baleen plates to filter out the water and eat the fish. Photo: Tory Kallman

When lunge feeding, humpback whales work together to corral the fish into tight schools and lunge in unison.

When lunge feeding, humpback whales work together to corral the fish into tight schools and then lunge in unison. Photo: Tory Kallman

“Although it isn’t uncommon to see the whales feed, you really need a lot of conditions to align to see this type of surface lunge feeding behavior,” said Kallman. “Often they feed below the water, so you don’t see the kind of surface activity we did in this case.”

Humpback whales lunging in unison. Photo: Tory Kallman

Two humpback whales lunging in unison in Monterey Bay. Photo: Tory Kallman

Lunges for anchovies tend to be higher and more pronounced than typical krill feeding, making it quite a sight for whale watchers.

“The whales we were watching exhibited this lunge feeding behavior for well over five hours,” said Kallman.” This was an exceptional day.”

According to Monterey Bay Whale Watch, humpback whales have continued to lunge feed on anchovies in Monterey Bay into October.

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6 comments:

BOB FRITZ on October 5th, 2013 at 8:01 am

Fight the good fight

Donna Bien on October 5th, 2013 at 4:59 pm

We were there on Sep 17 and went on a whale watch. That was TOTALLY a thrilling eperience. Keep up the great work.

Anchovies spark humpback feeding frenzy in Monterey Bay – Bay Nature on October 6th, 2013 at 12:17 am

[…] Anchovies spark humpback feeding frenzy in Monterey BayBay NatureHoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of the humpback whales that enter Monterey Bay to feed on krill in the summer months, Kallman was instead treated to the spectacle of a whale feeding frenzy. This year, an explosion of anchovies in the bay has provided … […]

Paul on October 12th, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Beautiful pictures!

bernadette brookes on October 14th, 2013 at 11:19 am

fantastic pics, so glad all good in Monterey Bay

Rhonda on October 14th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

They are so beautiful!

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