Become a Master of Cetacean Identification

Mar 31, 2015

Did you know that if you see a white band on the pectoral flipper of a whale, you are likely looking at a minke whale? Or if you spot a small triangular dorsal fin you are probably looking at a porpoise? As many cetacean-spotters know, it can prove challenging to determine what species you are looking at, especially in when you are only able to catch a brief glimpse! B.C. is lucky as it is host to a large diversity of cetacean species, meaning there is lots to choose from if you do see something. To assist you in distinguishing between species, we have created some new species identification tools that can help you expand and test your cetacean identification knowledge.

Try out our new visual key that highlights whales, dolphins and porpoises commonly spotted in B.C. waters. The key provides a basic breakdown of the distinguishing traits that you may notice when out on the water, and help you make a positive identification based on what you saw. Be sure to reference this handy tool if you ever need assistance identifying a commonly spotted cetacean!

Keep in mind, the key demonstrates the most commonly spotted cetaceans, but sometimes you may see something a little rarer, like the false killer whale or the risso’s dolphin. You really never know what you may encounter when on the water! If you think you spotted something not found in the dichotomous key, be sure to look through our identification guide for a complete list of the species you may see in B.C. waters, including sea turtles!

Think you’re a cetacean identification master? Test your knowledge with our new species identification quiz. Try and identify the species featured in the pictures, and see if you were able to pick up on the diagnostic traits. Remember; always keep an eye out for distinguishing markings and chatacteristics, as these can be valuable tools when making identifying cetacean species!

Another one of our new resources are pocket-size species identification cards. Similar to our identification guide, they are more condensed and can be printed out and attached to a keychain – perfect if you are looking for something smaller to be used on the go.

We hope you enjoy our new species identification resources. Now that you are an expert at distinguishing cetacean species in B.C., it will be easier than ever to report your cetacean and sea turtle sightings to the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network. Give us a shout at 1.866.I.SAW.ONE, email sightings@vanaqua.org, or visit wildwhales.org to report your sighting.

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