These humpback whale pictures will show you just how acrobatic these whales are. They're very popular with whale watchers because they put on such a good show.
There aren't that many of them, however. The population off the California coast is estimated at about 800. They can be found around Monterey Bay, Big Sur and the Channel Islands.
Humpback whales often leap out of the water - a behavior called breaching.
Humpback whales breach more often than any other species. The whales in these humpback whale pictures have risen out of the water and are about to come crashing down, making a big splash.
There are many theories about why whales do this: to dislodge parasites, to warn away intruders, as a distress signal, or just for fun. Maybe it's all of the above.
In the humpback whale picture below, the whale is surfacing straight up (also called spy-hopping). Whales can use their strong flukes to poke their heads out of the water and take a look around.
These whales are flapping their tails on the water - a behavior called tail lobbing. This may be another form of communication.
The natural markings on the tail fluke can be used to identify an individual humpback whale. A photo-identification system is used to study the migration patterns and behaviors of these whales.
Humpback whales usually travel in groups of 7 to 10. Here we see a pair swimming underwater.
This whale is heading to the surface to take a nice deep breath.
You can easily see the long pectoral fins in these photos. These flippers can get up to 16 feet long, which makes them the longest appendage of any animal.
Humpback whales use their pectoral fins for communication by slapping them on the surface of the water.
Whale Watching in California
California Whale Watching Cruises
Whale Watching on Land
California Whale Facts
California Whale Watching Festivals
More Humpback Whale Pictures
Gray Whale Pictures
More Gray Whale Pictures
Blue Whale Pictures
More Blue Whale Pictures
All photos are courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Mammal Laboratory.