Evidence of a North Atlantic right whale calf (Eubalaena glacialis) born in northeastern U.S. waters Academic Article uri icon


  • The general temporal and geographical patterns of North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) calving events have been clarified during the last quarter century of research (Kraus and Rolland 2007). Right whales give birth to a single calf every three to five years after a twelve- to thirteen-month gestation period (Best 1994; Kraus and Hatch 2001). Most calves are born between December and March in the coastal waters of the southeastern U.S., the only known calving ground for this species (Kraus et al. 2007; Winn et al. 1986). Although historical whaling records suggest that there were once two winter calving grounds, one off the southeastern U.S. and the other off northwestern Africa, it appears that only the former is still used today (Notarbartolo di Sciara et al. 1998; Reeves and Mitchell 1986; 1988). In the late winter, right whales leave the calving grounds and migrate to their foraging grounds off the northeastern U.S. and Canadian Maritimes. North Atlantic right whales can be found in Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bays throughout the late winter and early spring (Hamilton and Mayo 1990; Mayo and Marx 1990; Schevill et al. 1986), in the Great South Channel during mid-spring to early summer (Kenney et al. 1995), and in the Bay of Fundy (Kraus et al. 1982) and on the Scotian Shelf (Mitchell et al. 1986; Stone et al. 1988) during the summer and fall. Some individuals (mostly pregnant females and juveniles) return to the calving grounds off the southeastern U.S. in December and January, but the location of the rest of the population during those months is currently unknown (although recent evidence suggests that right whales are present in the Gulf of Maine and on the Scotian Shelf throughout the winter (Mellinger et al. 2007; T. Cole pers comm. ; S. Van Parijs pers comm. ).

publication date

  • April 2009