Their much reduced population is now found in the northern regions of the Atlantic Ocean, off the coasts of Iceland and Canada. In the fall, they migrate south to have their calfs off the coast of Georgia and Florida.
They live in coastal waters where they can feed on small crustaceans, called copepods, in shallow waters and nurse their young undisturbed.
They are a wide, relatively short whales reaching only about 50 feet (17 m) long for their 100 tons of weight. They have been described as stocky. Females are larger than males. Their huge, blunt head makes up one third of the body length and has a curved jaw containing a very long set of baleen plates. They have wide, blunt flippers (pectoral fins), and no dorsal fin. They are dark colored all over, except for some light-colored areas on the belly and crusty patches, called callosities, around the eyes, on the edge of the moth and chin, and along the blowhole. Callosities are crustaceans (also called whale lice) that do not hurt the whales. Scientists have used the pattern of the callosities on right whales to identify individuals over time. They have a large, v-shaped blowhole that is split, like nostrils. Their very wide tail (flukes) has a notched center.
They are slow-moving whales that migrate between the North Atlantic in Canada in the summer and the coast of Georgia and Florida in the winter months. They may feed and travel in pairs or small groups – sometimes with other kinds of whales or dolphins. They communicate with low frequency calls that sound anywhere from a grunt, moan, or sigh, to a loud belch. They are not aggressive to human and do breach and have been observed breeching out of the water and tail slapping.
They feed on zooplankton – small crustaceans (copepods and krill), skimming them off the surface of the water into their huge mouth. They then close their mouth and using a big, muscular tongue, push the captured food up against the back of their baleen plates. This lets the water through, but traps the food, which they swallow.
They were heavily whaled by man for centuries until they became critically endangered. Their young are also preyed upon by killer whales and sharks.
Females are pregnant for up to 12 months (gestation) and have one calf in the winter in the southern part of their migration. The calves can be up to 18 feet long (6 m) at birth. Breeding females will not have another young for about three years.
They are thought to live at least 70 years. They are the most endangered great whale.
Species: Eubalaena glacialis