Gray Whale

Gray Whale Sounds (Eschrichtius robustus)


Close-up of gray whale, showing two blow holes on top of head. Photo courtesy of Jo Guerrero.

This whale’s mottled gray body is commonly seen covered with barnacles and it lacks a dorsal fin. Maximum length of the gray whale is about 14.1 m (46 ft) with the females being slightly larger than the males. Gray whales are found in the North Pacific, with a small population in the western North Pacific and a much larger population in the eastern North Pacific. Gray whales in the eastern North Pacific winter along the coast of Baja California and migrate north to the Bering Sea in the spring, while gray whales in the western North Pacific are only known from a small region around Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Okhotsk. The most common sounds heard from the gray whale are moans between 20 and 200 Hz lasting approximately 1.5 seconds. Gray whales also produce clicks, knocks and metallic bonging sounds occurring as a single pulse or a series of pulses in quick succession with frequencies ranging from 100 Hz to 3 kHz.

Gray whale in Arctic ice north of Point Barrow. Photo courtesy of of Dave Withrow, NOAA, National Marine Mammal Laboratory.

Additional Resources

  • American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet: Gray Whale.
  • Wisdom, S., Bowles, A. E., & Anderson, K. E. (2001). Development of behavior and sound repertoire of a rehabilitating gray whale calf. Aquatic Mammals, 27(3), 239–255.
  • Richardson, W. J., Green, C. R., Malme, C. I. J., & Thomson, D. H. (1995). Marine Mammals and Noise. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • National Marine Mammal Laboratory: Gray Whales.
  • The Marine Mammal Center: Gray Whale.
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Voices in the Sea.


  • Crane, N. L., & Lashkari, K. (1996). Sound production of gray whales, Eschrichtius robustus , along their migration route: A new approach to signal analysis. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 100(3), 1878–1886.
  • Cummings, W. C., Thompson, P. O., & Cook, R. (1968). Underwater sounds of migrating gray whales, Eschrichtius glaucus (Cope). The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 44(5), 1278–1281.