Stunning drone footage captures rare video of blue whales feeding

One small flight for drones has the potential to be one giant step for science … just ask researchers at Oregon State University.

A group of scientists at the university recently captured rare footage of blue whales feeding in the Southern Ocean off New Zealand via drone.

The stunning footage, narrated by Leigh G. Torres, expedition leader and principal investigator with the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State, provides a great deal of insight into what whales eat and how they decide what food is worthy of their time.

In a press release, Torres explained the footage clearly shows the blue whales’ “lunge-feeding” process of suddenly lunging forward to eat a massive pack of krill.

“Our footage shows this [lunge-feeding theory] in action,” said Torres. “We can see the whale making choices, which is really extraordinary because aerial observations of blue whales feeding on krill are rare. The whale bypasses certain krill patches — presumably because the nutritional payoff isn’t sufficient — and targets other krill patches that are more lucrative.”

“We think this is because blue whales are so big, and stopping to lunge-feed and then speeding up again is so energy-intensive, that they try to maximize their effort,” Torres continued.

As for the unique perspective, the investigator gave a big thumbs up to drone usage, explaining they’re a “great way to film [the whales’] behavior without disturbing their behavior at all, unlike other aerial methods like a helicopter or a plane, which can’t hover or make a lot of noise.”

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