The mass feeding event near New South Wales was the first ever in Australia’s history and the humpbacks displayed a rarely-seen feeding technique called ‘bubble netting’
Incredible drone footage of a super group of humpback whales has been shot off the coast of Australia – sending scientists into a frenzy.
The mass feeding event near New South Wales, shot from above last year, was the first ever in the country’s history.
“I was overwhelmed, it was unbelievable. I’d never seen anything like it,” said wildlife scientist Vanessa Pirotta.
She added that the mass feeding frenzy has only ever been seen once before in the southern hemisphere, off the coast of South Africa.
Humpback whales feed in Antarctic waters during the summer then migrate to the waters off of northern Australia to feed during the winter.
This particular group of whales were shot by an overhead drone pilot on their way back to the Antarctic, the BBC reported.
Speaking to the same publication, Pirotta said that they typically travel in pods of between two and five.
She said that to see a group of between 20 and 90 is “quite unique.”
Pirotta said the whales created a “bubbling” effect on the water surface by breaching the water and turning on their sides and taking breaths.
The interest of scientists was also piqued when the footage revealed that some of the animals were using what is called “bubble net feeding behaviours.”
This is when the whale blows a circular perimeter of bubbles around its prey, creating a ‘net’ of water to enclose it.
Again, this was a first for Australia as it had never been seen there before, Pirotta said.
Scientists speculated that increased whale population or an abundance of food in the area could have sparked the mass feeding event.
The scientist added: “Not only is it a first for Australia, but it’s a piece of that puzzle that we are constantly learning about whale ecology.
“So to see this in Australian waters is just a wonderful sighting and something that’s very exciting for us in the whale world.”
Adult humpbacks range in length from 12–16 metres and weigh around 25–30 tons.
Recent research shows that humpbacks may be starting to spread out across larger swathes of water, going further afield for food,
According to research by Christine Gabriele of the Glacier Bay National Park and Cornell University Professor Michelle Fournet, whales stayed closer together pre-pandemic but are now splitting or going further afield because of less disruption from ships, whose numbers have dwindled since the pandemic.