#24 Tail Breaching

Last week, Suzie and I saw right whales exhibiting tail breaching behavior. This is when they throw their flukes and tail stock into the air and slam it down on the surface of the water. We also saw some animals exhibiting lobtailing behavior, which is when they repeatedly slap the surface of the water with either their dorsal or ventral flukes. These behaviors were easy to identify in the field because I have commonly observed humpback whales display these same behaviors on their feeding grounds off the coast of Massachusetts. Lobtailing is a fairly common behavior seen among right whales, whereas tail breaching is apparently not as common.

The photograph below shows a humpback whale lobtailing in the central Early Warning System (EWS) area this past week.

Photo Credit: New England Aquarium, Kelly Slivka.

Because of the relative infrequency of tail breaching, this behavior did not exist in our DIGITS identification catalog, when we were coding the photos for behaviors. After some discussion, tail breaching behavior was added to DIGITS and now we can code for the behavior when it occurs, even if it rarely happens. As you can see, even though NEAq has been flying EWS surveys since 1994, methods are constantly being tweaked and improved - it's always a work in progress!



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