Gray Whale Behaviors

When you spot a whale off the Oregon coast there is a variety of behavior you might see at any time ranging from a blow to a full body breach. Below are some of the more common seen behaviors we see.


This is the most common behavior regardless of the time of year or the species of whale. As whales and dolphins approach the surface they exhale, blowing spray into the air.


When a whale takes a deeper dive, typically to feed, they will often flip their fluke completely out of the water.


This term is used to describe a whale rolling on its side below the surface. This causes half of the tail to stick out of the water and can look like a shark fin.

Social Behaviors

While on the Oregon feeding grounds, gray whales are often solitary. But they can also be seen in pairs or social groups. Males can try to “escort” females as they compete with one another for the attentions of a female. Whales also rub each other with their body and pectoral fins (side fins). Sometimes these behaviors are related to reproduction and sometimes they help generate bonds between individuals (like a handshake or hug).

Spy Hopping

Spy hopping refers to a whale raising its head out of the water, typically just past the eye.


Breaching refers to a whale launching the majority of its massive body out of the water and crashing down. Some species such as the humpback breach often, while others, like the gray and blue whale, are much more seldom.

Mothers & Calves

During certain times of the year it is not uncommon to see calves swimming right along side their mothers.

Ready to go find some whales?

Now that you know what you to look for from gray whales off of the Oregon Coast, visit our interactive map to see an ever-growing list of some of our favorite spots to watch whales from shore!