New York’s Upper West Side Has Its Own Whale

The mammal is on what seems to be an epic tour of Manhattan

River Whale
This whale is on is own sightseeing tour. NYC DOT (via Twitter)

It’s got an average monthly rent of nearly $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. It’s got a reputation for some of New York’s toniest cultural events (hello, Lincoln Center). But it turns out that New York’s Upper West Side also has something you’d never expect: its own whale. As Bob Monek reports for ABC7NY, a whale was spotted in waters off of the Upper West Side this week.

Officials are telling mariners to watch out for the whale, which was sighted in the Hudson River off of 96th Street on Sunday. The whale is likely a humpback, wildlife experts tell Monek.

It’s the latest in a series of sightings that have turned average New Yorkers into bona fide whale watchers. On Thursday, the whale was spotted in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty. Then, observers spotted it in the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge.

Although it’s rare to spot one, whales do call the New York Bight home. This indented stretch of water spans from New Jersey to Long Island. However, the creatures rarely make their way into the rivers and estuaries that surround Manhattan. When they do, it’s often a sign that whales are in poor health or have gotten lost, as when a 40-foot humpback named Harry took a brief detour into the Hudson River in 1988, before turning back around.

In this case, though, the whale doesn’t seem to be in danger. Rather, hunger seems to have driven the humpback into the Hudson. As Myles Ma reports for, researchers observed the whale lunging toward menhaden fish. Wildlife officials told’s Mary Ann Spoto earlier this year that menhaden, which swim in schools that can reach 30 miles in length, are at their highest number in a decade this year due to favorable conditions.

That may be good news for whales, but it’s bad news for menhaden. And not just because they make great snacks for mammals: Just this month, a canal in Hampton Bays, New York became clogged with tens of thousands of rotting menhaden that died when they were likely chased into the channel locks by predators—but they hit a dead end. The large numbers of creatures drew the oxygen from the water, leading them to suffocate and die.

Where will Manhattan’s wandering whale go next? Perhaps a trip up the East River—Brooklyn’s a beautiful destination this time of year. Or maybe the whale will decide that it can afford the rent and take up permanent residence on the Upper West Side. Either way, New Yorkers should keep their cell phones handy—there’s no telling when the next photo op with the whale will occur.

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