Humpback whale song characteristics described from a subarctic feedingground in Iceland
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are a migratory species known to produce complex and geographically varied songs in breeding grounds during the winter. In the North Atlantic, studies have identified humpback whale songs on their migratory routes and at mid to higher latitude feeding grounds. Studies in 2008 and 2009 discovered the first recordings of humpback whale song units from Northeast Iceland. This study aims to expand the current understanding of songs recorded from NE-Iceland by describing the patterns of themes and phrases observed in this subarctic feeding ground. Songs were recorded during the winter months of January to March, 2011 in Skjálfandi Bay, Húsavík. A seabed mounted ecological acoustic recorder (EAR) was deployed to record 10 minutes every 5 minute break with a sampling rate of 16kHz. Results show consistent detections of singing humpback whales in 77.5% of the 4296 recorded sound files. Reoccurring phrases and themes are identified in a number of songs supporting the notion that these are not un-patterned or social sounds typically observed in high lattitude feeding grounds. This study provides new perspective on this species natural history by showing the presence of humpback whale singers in a subarctic feeding ground during winter.