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behavior keys


Blow – refers to both the act of breathing and the cloud of water droplets produced above the animal’s head during the process of exhalation.

Resting – usually refers to a single whale, or a mother and calf, remaining quietly in the same location for an extended period of time. The whale’s back can often be seen throughout the resting period, although sometimes, the whale may slowly submerge after rising to the surface to breathe.

Fluke up dive – as the whale dives, it may arch its back with the peduncle appearing at the surface of the water, which is usually followed with its tail fluke above the surface of the water. The tail flukes can be brought straight up into the air, exposing the entire ventral surface.

Spy hop – is when the whale rises straight up out of the water slowly and maintains its head above the surface to just below the eye. It often turns 90-180 degress on its longitudinal axis, then slips back below the surface.

Head lunge – the head is raised above the surface of the water at a 45-90 degree angle while the whale lunges forward with a sudden burst of speed.

Pectoral wave – the pectoral fins or flippers are extended high up into the air while the whale is lying at the surface, either on its back or side.

Pectoral slap/Flipper slap – humpbacks frequently roll at the surface, slapping their long pectoral fins against the water, or they may lie on their side, bringing one fin high up into the air and then swinging it forcefully down onto the surface of the water.

Tail wave – the fluke and caudal peduncle are extended straight up into the air, with the whale’s head pointed directly toward the ocean floor. The fluke may be gently waved back and forth (tail wave) or simply held motionless in the air (fluke extension).

Tail slap – the forceful slapping of the fluke against the surface of the water

Peduncle slap – the rear portion of the body, including the caudal peduncle and the flukes, is thrown up out of the water and then brought down sideways.

Breach – the whale propels itself out of the water, generally clearing the surface with two-thirds of its body or more. As the whale rises above the water, it throws one pectoral fin out to the side and turns in the air on its longitudinal axis.


Milling – remaining at the surface of the water for an extended period of time with no obvious movement towards a specific direction Bow riding – when a dolphin rides on the bow waves or the stern waves of boats

Resting/ logging – animal floats on the surface of the water with very little movement; resembling a floating piece of log

Breach – when a dolphin propels its entire body high above the surface of the water or ‘jumps’ from the surface of the water.

Tail slap – forceful hitting of the tail or fluke on the surface of the water

Porpoising – rising or jumping above the surface of the water and submerging alternately

Kaufman, G.D. and Forestell, P.H. 1986. Hawaii’s Humpback Whales: A Complete Whalewatchers Guide. Pacific Whale Foundation Press. Hawaii.

A humpback blow

Logging or resting

Fluke up dive

Spy hop

Flipper slap

Tail slap

Peduncle slap

A half breach