Whale Watching ~


Watching the whales migrate off the Oregon coast is epic and exhilarating. 

The most prevalent whales to pass by are the California Gray Whale and the Orca also referred to as the Killer Whale. From late March to June the whales migrate North to Alaska, and South from Alaska from mid-December through January. Though there are “resident” whales that stay here in the summer, approximately 18,000 travel by the Oregon Coast each season.

Currently, in the Summer of 2014, an albino gray whale has been spotted by many onlookers in the Port Orford, OR area.  Albino grey whales are extremely rare and we are pleased that this visitor has decided to stick around for awhile.  It is a common sight to see adults and calves from any viewpoint on the Port Orford coastline. Personally, my favorite whale watching location is at the Port in Port Orford.  Whether it’s to play, rest, or scrape their barnacles off on the rocks, whales frequently swim along the jetty at the port.

A few tips for whale watchers: Look for whale spouts with your naked eye; then focus more closely with binoculars.  Viewing in the morning with the sun at your back is best. Days where the ocean is calm is better for viewing spouts since you won’t have all the white caps. Charter boats are also excellent for whale watching.  Charter services such as 5 Star Charters can help provide an excellent view of these massive creatures.

The Gray Whale: The Gray whale migrates yearly between feeding and breeding grounds. Gray whales reach a length of 49 feet, a weight of 40 tons and a lifespan of up to 70 years.  Grey whales are baleen whales.  Meaning they eat crustaceans.  When feeding, the whales roll on their sides on the ocean floor to scoop up crustaceans and sediments.  Did you know that grey whales have double spouts?  During rest, grey whales exhale 2-3 times per minute. During deep dives, grey whales can hold their breath up to 6 minutes.

The white patterns on the gray whale are actually scars left by parasites.  The parasites drop off when the gray whale travels to colder waters to feed.  Gray whales feed in shallow waters of 16-49 feet which is why it is so easy to see them from the viewpoints around Port Orford or one of our ocean view vacation homes.  

Orca (Killer) Whale: The Orca is a toothed whale belonging to the dolphin family.  Orca whales are social mammals and considered to be very intelligent with sophisticated hunting techniques and are one of the world’s most powerful predators.  Traveling in pods of up to 40 whales, they prey on small whales, fish, seals, squid and seabirds.  Sticking with their own pods, they do socialize with other pods.  Orca whales have teeth up to 4 inches long, and have hunting techniques some say is similar to wolf packs.  Unlike the Gray whale, Orca whales do not migrate.  They have been known however, to travel hundreds of miles to find ‘in season’ food. 

Killer whales can reach a length of 32 feet long and a weight of 11 tons.  Killer whales have a lifespan of 50 to 60 years.  Female Killer whales start breeding between the ages of 12 and 16 years old.  The gestation period; is 15 to 17 months and nurse their calves for up to 2 years.  During their lifespan, a female will have around 5 calves.  

Being one of the fastest whales in the sea, Orca’s can travel up to 30 miles per hour.  

Eating up to 5% of their body weight per day, Orca’s eat an average of over 500 pounds in food each day.  With such a consumption of food, 60% of their time is spent foraging for food. 

It is recorded that the only attacks on humans, is from Killer Whales in captivity, no attack on a human from an Orca in the wild has ever been noted.  Though, it was made very clear to my uncle years ago, while in his kayak, that he was a little too close to a pod while in the bay in Port Orford.  

If you are a whale enthusiast, you can tell each Killer Whale apart from each other as each whale has a mark behind the dorsal fin that is unique to itself.

Did you know the killer whale is actually a dolphin?  Actually, the largest dolphin in existence of course. 

Want an aerial view of the whales? David Hankwitz with Dave’s Aviation has a plane that seats up to 3 passengers.  (503) 468-8374.  Or for our guests, Wildland Properties can set up this exciting amenity for you. (541) 366-2117.