How Much Do Whales Eat? 5 Common Food Sources!

With some of the largest living mammals across the world, it will come as no surprise that whales consume a large amount of food. Just look at the size of their mouth and imagine how many fish they can swallow up at once!

Of course, there are many species of whales that have different food sources and eat a different amount each day. Let’s look at a few different whales to get a good understanding of their eating habits including when they eat, what they eat, and how much they eat!

Whale in water

How Much Do Whales Eat?

On average, most species of whales consume between 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of food daily. It’s estimated that a whale will normally eat around 4% of its total body mass, which can range from 10,000 to 100,000 pounds. The common food sources that a whale will consume are small fish, krill, and shrimp.

While these numbers are unbelievably high, there’s enough reasoning behind why these species consume so much daily. It takes a lot of food to sustain these large mammals like the Blue Whale, which is known as the largest mammal in the world.

Food Consumption

The common food sources differ between whales, especially since there are species like Baleen or Mysticeti which have plates instead of teeth. Below is a chart for the types of food that whales eat to make up around 4% of their body weight.

Species Common Food
Baleen Whale (6,600 lbs) small fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton, water copepods, krill, shrimp, birds
Fin Whale (100,000 lbs) squids, shrimp, birds, and marine mammals
Blue Whale (110,000 – 330,000 lbs) mostly krill
Bryde Whale (44,000 lbs) small fish, krill
Gray Whale (60,000 lbs) copepods, amphipods, marine worms, krill
Humpback Whale (66,000 lbs) small fish, krill

For instance, a Humpback, in particular, eats anywhere between 4,400-5,500 lbs. daily. Additionally, a Blue whale digests a staggering 8,000 pounds on the same recurrence.

Whale Feeding Seasons

Discussing whale’s eating habits won’t be complete without mentioning their feeding season. As the term implies, it’s the time of the year where these marine wonders consume so much food. Also, they travel from tropical areas to the polar hemispheres to eat different food varieties.

Whales consume so much during this season to gather energy.

Moreover, the excess energy is stored in their blubber, a thick layer of fat found on most sea mammals, including whales. During mating season, they can sustain by utilizing what they store on their blubbers.

A fascinating fact is that feeding seasons depend on every whale’s environment.

However, some patterns suggest that these occur typically in spring and summer, where fish, krill, and other marine creatures on the lower food chain migrates to places where ice melts.

If you’re unfamiliar, melting ice attracts fishes since these phenomena make their environment more livable.

Whale Food Gathering

It’s lovely to observe whales eat. Instead of biting, baleen whales strain fishes and other marine creatures with their mouth. As a result, they’re often called “skimmers.”

Unlike other vicious predators, whales casually swim around with their mouths wide open.

Along the way, they trap those who enter or are caught by closing their mouth.

Typically, they can take many fishes and other species in a single swim, making them even more capable of eating tons daily.

When a whale spots a school of fish, it blows large water bubbles to scare them away to the water surface, where its mouth devours them quickly. While they swallow their food, water is pushed outside through their plates concurrently.

Killer Whales

Besides Baleen or Mysticeti, there are also the Odontoceti whales. This suborder is also called the killer whales, mainly due to their sharp teeth.

Odontoceti feeds larger marine species and consumes a lesser 1% to 3.5% of their total body mass daily. These creatures can hunt alone or in a group.

When hunting together, they encircle their prey to catch it effectively and share the food afterward.

Final Thoughts

Most adult whales consume an amount that equals around 4% of their mass each day. They often eat small fish, krill, shrimp, and other small creatures that they can get a large amount of at once.

Since some whales get much larger than others, they require more food to stay alive. That makes it difficult to get an average weight consumption, which is why it’s easier to consider what they eat in comparison to their weight.