Alaska Whale Migration

Coastal Life

With the changing of seasons, the Alaskan coast moves from icy stillness to layers of vibrant life. Where fall once signaled the beginning of southern migrations, the spring welcomes in new life and returning residents with the melting of ice. The days lengthen and animals start to rouse just as others are making their annual trip back. Many coastal species follow the warming waters to northern regions for an abundance of food. These organic incentives to the Alaska whale migration create the thriving and growing ecosystems we love to observe and explore.

These mass migrations occur typically for breeding and food resources. That is why Alaska provides a great window of opportunity to whale watch from the months of April to September. You may catch these gentle giants floating through the oceanscape from your boat deck or even on the shorelines of bays. Many companies even provide whale watching tours on primary migration routes.

Whales of Alaska

Alaska Whales

Tidal glaciers provide excellent feeding grounds for whales migrating

The most common migrant to the beaches of Alaska are the endangered Humpback whale. As many as 10,000 humpbacks will migrate to Alaska each year. They enjoy the abundance of food provided by the seasonally warm waters the arctic provides. Many different species will also migrate to Alaska for similar reasons such as the Orca, Beluga, and Grey Whales among many others.

Many of these whales depend mainly on the food supply they enjoy in Alaska to supplement them through the entire year. During the spring and summer months the arctic waters start to warm and provide an ample feeding ground of plankton, krill, and small fish for the whales. This warm water is an invitation to start migrating thousands of miles to gorge food. Once the water starts to drop in temperature in the fall the food supply does as well. (NOAA)

After the food supply declines the whales will migrate thousands of miles again towards more tropical waters. With the food supply being low in the tropical regions as well they use this opportunity for breeding and reproducing. With the low supply of nutrients the whales survive off of fat reserves they had stored during the summer. And then, every spring, the whales start the migration all over again.

First Hand Experiences

migrating animals in Alaska

A humpback whale spouting from the water in a bay area

An interaction with whales, whether from the beaches or close to the bow of your boat, has a deep impact. These experiences give you an immersive interaction with the coast and display the symbiotic connection between wildlife and ecosystem.  If you are looking to observe the natural migration patterns of whales, the Alaskan shorelines will be one of your best opportunities.