What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (2024)

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (1)

Baby whales are the largest newborns in the world, born with a remarkable size and weighing at least a couple of tons right from birth. But what exactly are these gigantic infants called?

In this article, we explore the fascinating world of these young sea giants. From what they’re called to their first swim in the ocean, we uncover interesting facts about baby whales.

We’ll look at how they grow, what they eat, and how they learn to survive in the ocean. Get ready to dive deep into the amazing journey of baby whales.

Contents show

What Is a Baby Whale Called?

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (2)

A baby whale is commonly known as a calf. As they mature, they are referred to as juvenile whales until they reach adulthood. Upon reaching adulthood, male whales are called bulls, and females are known as cows.

The terms “bull,” “cow,” and “calf,” originally for farm animals, are also used for sea creatures like whales. This likely stems from the ease of describing the different life stages of these animals as well as their roles.

These names also highlight the similarities between sea and land mammals, such as giving birth to live young and having complex social lives.

Fun Fact: The term “calf” is used for only a few sea animals, most of which are marine mammals. Aside from whales, they are also used to describe baby dolphins, manatees, seals, and sea lions.

5 Interesting Facts About Baby Whales

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (3)

Baby whales, aside from being the largest newborn animals in the world, have a few other things up their sleeves. Let’s take a look at some of the most fascinating facts about whale calves.

1. Baby blue whales gain around 200 pounds a day

Baby blue whales grow extremely fast in their first year. They can gain about 200 pounds every day by drinking their mother’s milk, which is very high in fat.

This rapid growth helps them survive in the ocean by quickly building up their blubber for insulation. Likewise, it also helps them with their buoyancy.

2. Whale calves can swim backward

Some whale calves, such as baby beluga whales, are unique because they can swim backward. This ability helps them move through icy waters and tight spaces, showing their agility and flexibility.

This skill is rare among marine mammals and highlights how maneuverable some whales are.

3. Baby whales have separate breathing and eating passages

Unlike land animals, baby whales have evolved to have separate passages for breathing and eating. This means they can’t breathe through their mouths.

This adaptation is vital for them to breathe efficiently at the surface while feeding underwater without the risk of drowning.

4. The lungs of baby whales are highly efficient

Baby whales have incredibly efficient lungs that are adapted for life in the ocean. They can exchange a large percentage of the air in their lungs with each breath, much more than humans.

For comparison, blue whales can absorb about 80% to 90% of the oxygen in their lungs with each breath, which is significantly more efficient than humans, who typically absorb only 10 to 15%.

This high efficiency is crucial for whales, allowing them to hold their breath for extended periods during dives.

Fun Fact: Did you know that whales have the largest lungs in the world? Its two lungs can hold an impressive 5,000 liters of air. For reference, we humans can hold around 6 liters of air inside our lungs.

5. Baby whales have natural predators

Despite being as big as a small school bus, baby whales face dangers from natural predators in the ocean. While adult whales generally have few predators, their calves are more vulnerable.

Killer whales, also known as orcas, are among the top predators in the ocean and pose a threat to baby whales.

These orcas often hunt in coordinated groups and may target young or smaller whales. One strategy orcas use is to isolate a calf from its mother before attacking.

Sharks, while less common as whale predators, can also be a danger.They are more likely to attack calves than adults, as the younger ones are easier to catch and overpower.

How Big Are Baby Whales at Birth?

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (4)

On average, a newborn whale calf can measure anywhere from 16 to 26 feet in length, depending on the species. This is comparable to the length of a large motorboat.

In terms of weight, they can range from 2.5 to 3.3 tons. This is approximately as heavy as a small school bus.

Their massive size plays an important role in baby whales’ survival in the ocean. It gives them the size and warmth they need to handle the cold water.

Even though they’re so big, these baby whales are surprisingly quick and can swim with their moms right away.Being able to swim fast is critical for them. It helps them stay safe from danger and keep up with migratory patterns.

How Are Baby Whales Born?

Baby whales are born in a process known as live birth, similar to most mammals. They don’t come from eggs. Instead, they come out of their mother’s body alive. When a baby whale is born, it comes out tail-first.

This is so it can quickly get to the surface of the water to breathe. The mom whale and sometimes other female whales help the newborn get to the top of the water.

Whales carry their babies inside them for a long time, usually 10 to 18 months, depending on the species. Generally, female whales have only one baby at a time. In scientific terms, they are known as uniparous.

However, there are rare instances of twin whale calves. I recall a news report back in 2014 of a sighting of conjoined gray whale twins off the coast of Mexico. It was possibly the first of its kind.

Experts believe the twins were between 8.5 and 10.5 months old at birth, which is shorter than the typical length for full-term gray whale calves.

Here’s a video displaying the rare sighting of conjoined twin baby whales:

Whales joined at birth - conjoined whale calves found in Mexico

Another thing to note about whales is how often they give birth to calves. Usually, female whales give birth only once every 2 to 3 years.This is because a mother whale spends a lot of time and energy rearing for each calf.

Did you know that there are documented cases where whales can give birth head-first? Watch this video to see a Beluga whale calf being born head first:

Bella the Beluga Whale Gives Birth | NowThis

How Do Baby Whales Breathe?

Baby whales, like all mammals, need air to breathe. They live underwater, but they rise to the surface of the water to get air. They breathe through a blowhole on top of their heads, which works somewhat like a nose.

Right after they are born, baby whales are guided by their mothers and other members of the pod to the surface to breathe for the first time.

However, whales don’t breathe automatically like we do; they choose when to breathe and can only hold their breath for a limited time when diving.

What Do Baby Whales Eat?

The diet of baby whales depends primarily on their species. For example, calves of baleen whales, like the blue whale, feed exclusively on their mother’s milk.

On the other hand, toothed whale calves, like orcas, start incorporating solid food into their diets earlier. While they still depend on their mother’s milk for nutrition, these calves gradually learn to catch small fish and squid.

In essence, the diet of baby whales is affected by what species they are and the ecological needs they have.

How Long Do Baby Whales Stay With Their Mothers?

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (5)

Calves stay with their mothers for varying lengths of time, depending on the species. Most remain close to their mothers for a considerable period, but the exact duration can range from a few months to several years.

For example, baleen whales, such as minke and fin whales, stay together for 4 to 7 months. Humpback whales can stay for up to 24 months, the longest among baleen whales.

Meanwhile, beluga whale calves often stay with their mothers for about three years. This is much longer compared to harbor porpoises, which usually stay with their mothers for only 8 to 12 months.

During this time, the calves learn essential skills such as communication and navigation. This close relationship helps keep the young whales safe and teaches them how to survive in the ocean.

Watch this video to witness the first few days in the life of a baby whale:

Baby Whale Playtime Gets Dangerous | Spy In The Ocean | BBC Earth

Can Baby Whales Swim on Their Own?

Right after birth, baby whales can already swim, but not as well as full-grown whales. They need their mothers to guide them to get to the surface of the water for their first breath.

As they get a bit older, these young whales quickly get better at swimming. In fact, just a few days after birth, they learn to swim stronger and start to move around more on their own in the sea.

When Do Baby Whales Reach Full Maturity?

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (6)

The time it takes for baby whales to reach full maturity varies widely among species.

Here’s a table of some common whale species and the ages at which they reach maturity:

Type of WhaleMaturity (Age in Years)
Beluga Whales5–14
Blue Whales8–10
Humpback Whales5–10
Minke Whales6–10
Orca (Killer Whales)10–16
Gray Whales8–12

For many whales, reaching maturity means they have mastered necessary survival skills like deep diving and long-distance migration, which are essential for their survival.Reaching maturity also signals they are already capable of reproducing.

So, what do you think about whale calves? Do you know any other facts about baby whales? Share your thoughts and ideas with us by leaving a comment below!

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (7)

Daniel Bradley

I'm Daniel Bradley, a marine biologist and experienced angler with a deep love for fish and marine ecosystems. Through my blog, I share insights on marine species, conservation issues, and my personal experiences from fishing and exploring marine sanctuaries, aiming to inspire and educate others about the underwater world.

What Is a Baby Whale Called? (With Pictures & Facts) (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Stevie Stamm

Last Updated:

Views: 5625

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Stevie Stamm

Birthday: 1996-06-22

Address: Apt. 419 4200 Sipes Estate, East Delmerview, WY 05617

Phone: +342332224300

Job: Future Advertising Analyst

Hobby: Leather crafting, Puzzles, Leather crafting, scrapbook, Urban exploration, Cabaret, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is Stevie Stamm, I am a colorful, sparkling, splendid, vast, open, hilarious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.