With around 40 different species of whale that call our oceans home, it’s no surprise that they all have different preferences when it comes to travel.
Heck we humans sometimes cycle, take the train, travel by air, or travel in a car. Sometimes we travel with friends or family and sometimes we go it alone.
This is much the same as whales (minus the technology!). A question that often comes up when discussing whales and how they navigate the oceans is “do whales travel in pods?”.
YES, many whales do travel in pods. However, many other species of whale much prefer to roam the oceans alone and live a more solitary life. It largely depends on the species of whale as to their travel preferences.
Let’s take a closer look…
Do Whales Really Travel In Pods?
Whales are social animals that often travel in pods, especially when migrating to their feeding or mating grounds.
Many species such as humpback whales travel to the icy Arctic regions every year from warm, tropical waters to feed.
These whales can travel up to 18,840km every single year in order to reach their feeding grounds where they will feed all summer before traveling back down to warmer waters in winter.
Why Do Whales Travel In Pods?
Traveling vast distances in a pod makes a lot of sense for whales. After all, who would want to travel such distances all alone?
Migrating as a pod offers whales protection from predators. Large sharks and Orca actively lurk on the travel path of many whales to hunt young calves, so traveling in a pod offers more security.
Traveling as a pod also allows whales to socialize and find food whilst on their journey. They may work together to maximize the amount of food they can take in.
Another reason why some whales prefer to travel in pods is for emotional support and navigation.
Studies show that whales that travel alone are more likely to get lost or stranded whilst on their way to their feeding grounds.
Some species of whale such as humpbacks have been known to form what’s called a “competition pod” when they are pursuing a female.
Up to 25 male humpbacks will come together and chase a female, trying to overtake her male escort and win the right to mate.
The female humpback and her escort will remain in the center of the group, whilst the competing males will try to get closer to her whilst the escort defends himself.
This can be a brutal ordeal with many whales getting injured. Whales can be observed slapping one another with their flukes, as well as bumping heads and ramming each other.
Which Whale Species Travel In Pods?
Now that we know the benefits of traveling in pods for whales, let’s take a look at which species of whale prefer this way of travel.
Belugas are notorious for their sparkling white color, and they’re actually some of the most social of all whale species.
These whales typically travel in pods of between 2 and 25 individuals when on their long migration.
Humpback whales are another species of whale that love to travel and migrate in pods, often between 2 – 3 individuals but sometimes as many as 15 whales.
They use their pod to hunt large quantities of squid, krill, and other crustaceans through techniques such as bubble netting.
Orca (Killer Whales)
Possibly the most famous pod of whales is the killer whales. These “wolves of the sea” will travel in pods that have between 5 and 30 individuals.
These highly intelligent animals work together to catch prey and use fascinating hunting techniques to dominate the ocean.
Sperm whales are known to travel in pods as large as 15 to 25 individuals.
These big-brain whales stick together when traveling for safety, whilst males will sometimes roam solo or move from group to group.
Which Whales Are Solitary?
There are actually more species of whale that prefer to travel by themselves than with a pod.
Some of the largest whale species prefer to live a solitary life and roam the oceans by themselves, only meeting up occasionally to mate.
Below are some examples of whales that do not travel in pods;
- Blue whale
- Right whale
- Fin whale
- Gray whale
- Minke whale
- Omura’s whale
- Sei whale
Most baleen whales tend to be solitary animals, only coming together to mate. Whilst toothed whales live in pods that range in size depending on the species.
Of course, there are exceptions to these guidelines, such as the humpback and sei whales which are often seen in groups of 3.
That said, these groups mostly consist of a mother, male, and calf and are therefore not what many would typically refer to as a “pod of whales”.
How Big Are Whale Pods?
The size of a whale pod largely depends on the species with many pods ranging from between 1 and 50 individual whales.
Whales typically gather in pods when they are about to migrate, but some species permanently live in pods too.
Sometimes whales will even gather in the hundreds, but mass gatherings like this are rarely seen.
Research crews have spotted groups of up to two hundred humpback whales as recent as 2011, 2014, and 2015 off the coast of South Africa.
YES, whales do travel in pods. They do so for protection as there is safety in numbers, especially in the ocean.
There are numerous benefits that come with traveling in pods, but many species of whales prefer to travel alone too.
This largely depends on the species, with Humpbacks, Belugas, and Orca enjoying the pod life, whilst Sei whales, Blue whales, and others prefer solitary travel.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this post and have learned why some whales travel in pods and why others do not.
Catch you in the next one!
Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years. I’ve spent over a decade in the marine wildlife industry and spent years out in the field conducting research. In today’s modern world, an online blog is the best place for me to share my findings and reach as many people as possible to help educate and inspire others. Enjoy your time here and you’re welcome back anytime!