Mothers That Amaze

We all know that it takes a lot of work to be a good parent, and Mother's Day serves as a reminder for us to reflect on the women who nurtured us into being. Here in the research office, Mother's Day not only gets us thinking about our own moms, but about our beloved right whales who have given birth this year. When the end of November approaches (signaling the start of the calving season), everyone begins to wonder who will be the first mother sighted. Since this population is so small, every birth matters and each sighting of a new calf is celebrated. We love when a female gives birth for the first time, and we love when a female gives birth for the fifth time!

Phoenix and her 2007 calf in the Southeast. Photo: Jessica Taylor

For the mother, giving birth to her 13-16 ft calf of 1,540-2,200 lbs is just the first step. Being born in the relatively warm waters of the Southeast US allows the calf to be comfortable while nursing itself into a blubbery babe, but there's no food in those waters for the adults. Mom will fast for months as her layer of fat sustains her while she nurses her offspring. Once the calf is large enough and waters warm with the spring season, mom will lead the calf northward along the east coast. This journey must be stressful for both, as young whales are susceptible to vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Miraculously, these pairs will reach the spring feeding grounds in the Northeast, where mom will start to replenish her blubber store. By the time the calf is fully weaned, she will have nursed for nearly 11 months and watched her calf grow into a 29-33 ft whale weighing 26,400 lbs or more. Mom will take at least one year to regain enough fat before even thinking about mating again!

Equator and her 2013 calf in Cape Cod Bay. Photo: Amy Knowlton

During this 2013-2014 calving season, ten mom and calf pairs were sighted! A few of them have been seen in New England waters already, and we hope to find some in the Bay of Fundy during our surveys this summer. The money raised by our sponsorship program helps fund our surveys and research, so if you're looking for a gift for your Mom this Mother's Day, consider a right whale sponsorship! Phoenix (Catalog #1705), Calvin (Catalog #2223) and Piper (Catalog #2320) are whales in our sponsorship program who have all successfully raised calves. Honor your mom with a gift that honors a mother of a different species! You will be helping to support the research and conservation efforts that attempt to make right whale mothers' jobs as easy as they can be in this urban ocean. 

Click here to sponsor a right whale for Mother's Day!

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