Lobtailing, a behaviour actually shared with several other large-finned species, involves the whale lifting its tail high out of the water before slapping back down against the water. A movement of immense power, lobtailing is magnificent and intimidating in the same instance, and researchers speculate it may be a method of communication or perhaps a display of aggression to scare off bull whales or even excited observers. Regardless of its purpose, lobtailing is a sight to behold. It is, among other common behaviours, regularly seen by whale watching operators in Sydney.
Spy-hopping is a somewhat lesser-known behaviour, although it is also a regular occurrence. The movement involves the vertical surfacing of the whale’s head and upper chest. The whale’s eyes are visible in this position, and it is believed spy-hopping simply provides the whale with a look around above the water. The necessity for this practice is unclear, with plausible motivations being a method of navigation or perhaps an expression of simple curiosity.
The most iconic, not to mention spectacular, of all whale behaviour, breaching, remains one of the most speculated. Most commonly exhibited by Humpbacks, breaching involves the majority (and sometimes entirety) of a whale propelling out of the water. Breaching could be linked to communication, attraction, or may even be an attempt to scare off the mating competition. Other theories suggest it could be a drastic effort to rid the body of skin parasites, while some observers suggest it is a behaviour grounded in simply having a bit of fun. Breaching is acrobatic, to say the least, and whatever its reason it remains the most iconic whale watching phenomenon.