Whales are very large mammals so it is no surprise that they consume large amounts of food each day. They are very good predators and find what they need to fill up on in the waters where they live. While whales do prefer larger fish for their meals, they will even resort to consuming the microscopic organisms found in the water if the food supply is scarce.
While Baleen whales they have a type of filtering system in their jaw. This allows them to catch a great deal that is in the water, keep what is food, and then to filter out the rest. Generally they will eat smaller sized fish and other items in the water. On average, a whale will eat 4% of its body weight as long as there is enough food readily available.
Some types of whales have very large stomachs so they don’t eat every day. For example the Blue Whale can hold up to 2,200 pounds of food before it is a top capacity. The more aggressive predators are the Tooth Whales and they eat larger fish and other aquatic life.
Even though these larger whales do have teeth, most of them don’t use them to tear apart their food. They use the teeth for the killing process only. Then they end up swallowing their prey whole. The habits will vary significantly based upon the species of whale and the region that they live in. Observation of these behaviors have lead to some fascinating discoveries.
Female whales produce milk in the mammary glands that they are able to feed to their young. They usually only give birth to one at a time which is called a calf. Sometimes twins are found but very seldom. They will continue to feed from their mother for at least the first year of life. Then they will be taught to hunt so that they can get their own food. The milk is very thick which means that almost all of it gets to the calf instead of being thin and diluted into the water around the baby whale.
The amount of milk that a whale calf will consume daily is unbelievable. It will depend on the type of whale that you are discussing. Some of them consume up to 400 liters of milk every day. Others will consume about half of that amount. This milk is about 50% fat which is very good for the development of these young whales.
Whales are warm blooded so they need to keep their body temperatures high. They rely on layers of fat called blubber to help them stay warm. In order to generate it they will need to consume large amounts of food in the summer months. This way when they migrate to the warmer locations to stay warm they will have the insulation that they need. Most species of whales won’t eat as they migrate so they do lose some of that blubber in the process.