Over the weekend just gone i saw 2 large whales off the coast of southeastern New South Wales (in Australia) playing together, fooling around, doing small breaches and showing off their tails and fins. The wales that are usually spotted in this section of the coast are Humpbacks, however occasionally there are Southern Right wales also, but i don't know which sort they were. Caught up in the moment of watching the great display that they were giving us (they were only about 30m off the coast) i didn't actually take specific note of their features, except that the water expelled from their blowhole was in the shape of a "V". Do you know if this feature can determine if these wales were humpbacks or southern rights? I guess your experience is with northern hemisphere wales, but after a few fruitless searches on the internet i eventually found this site and am hopeful of an answer. If not, no problem and i'll keep searching.
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Using blows (whale exhalations) to determine a species is a tricky thing. Blows can change shapes based on the amount of wind, etc. A humpback's blow is 2.5 to 3 m tall, and bushy (this info is from Leatherwood and Reeves, Sierra Club Handbook of Whales and Dolphins). The same field guide says that the blow of a right whale is bushy and v-shaped and can be up to 5 m in height. So, it sounds like you might have seen a right whale, but as I already noted, I personally wouldn't rely on the shape of a blow to tell me what I'm seeing. Hope this helps though! I don't have the exact web address, but also check the FAO website which has the Marine Mammals of the World field guide available for downloading there. You might find that useful, especially in terms of what people use to identify different species.
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