A humpback whale has been sighted off the coast of south Devon, it has been reported.

The giant mammals are rarely seen in the English Channel and the sighting has prompted whale watchers, photographers and tourists to flock to the shore near Brixham.

Experts said the whale is not thought to be distressed, despite being seen close to land and "looks to be quite healthy." It is thought the whale may be feeding on mackerel or herring that are prevalent in the area.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue said there has been an increase in sightings of humpback whales around the UK.

"Most of these have been in Scotland where they would be expected, but humpbacks have also been recently spotted off the coasts of Cornwall, Devon, Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, Yorkshire, Northumberland and the North West.

"Currently there are more than half a dozen humpback whales around UK coasts and the charity is monitoring all of them."

It was thought that the whale may have a calf with it, however it is more likely to be porpoises and dolphins in the vicinity, experts say.

Disturbance of Whale in Devon - Please keep your distance.There has been a report of a mother and calf humpback off...

Posted by Marine Management Organisation - MMO on Friday, February 24, 2017

As large crowds have gathered along the shore to get a glimpse of the whale, British Divers Marine Life Rescue has urged the public to stay away and refrain from taking boats out for a closer view, amid fears that the whale may become frightened and become beached, or swim into areas where it could become entangled in fishing gear.

Stephen Marsh, the charity's Operations Manager, said: "We would ask members of the public to stay away from this beautiful animal to allow it to feed naturally and not be shocked into stranding.

"Disturbing a whale, dolphin or porpoise is illegal in the UK and so authorities have been recording any human activity surrounding this whale and will be looking for infringements of the law. It's quite possible to see the whale from the shore and therefore there is no need to enter the water to approach it."

Members of the public have been sharing their photos of the whale on social media.