Beaked Whales


Beaked whales are found offshore in deep waters. There are many species in the Northern Pacific ocean; these are the most frequently encountered. Because they avoid vessels they are found far from shore; few sighting reports of beaked whales exist for British Columbia.

Baird’s beaked whale (Berardius bairdii)


Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)


Hubb’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon carlhubbsi)


Stejneger’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon stejnegeri)


  • Baird’s beaked whale: up to 13 m (about the size of a grey whale)
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale: up to 7 m (about the size of a female killer whale)
  • Stejneger’s and Hubb’s beaked whales: up to 5 m


  • Baird’s beaked whale: dark brown, with irregular white patches on the belly
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale: orange brown, with a white head and small white patches
  • Stejneger’s beaked whale: dark, with light coloration around the lower jaw and eyes; prominent triangular tooth may be seen
  • Hubb’s beaked whales: dark, with light coloration around both jaws and a white mound above the eye; a triangular tooth may be seen


Dorsal fin

  • the dorsal fins of beaked whales are typically small, triangular and very far back on the animal’s body
  • Cuvier’s beaked whales’ dorsal fins are more curved (falcate) like that of a dolphin


  • small and bushy, difficult to see from afar

Surface behaviour

  • rarely seen above the surface, although may occasionally lift their heads slightly out of the water


Group size / social behaviour

  • usually found in tight groups of 5-20 animals, very close to one another

Other characteristics

  • beaked whales have teeth that emerge from their lower jaw
  • most individuals (especially males) are heavily scarred due to male competition

Can be confused with

  • large size and coloration of Baird’s beaked whales is comparable with minke whales, but Baird’s beaked whales have a pointed beak, no baleen, and are typically found in groups.
  • smaller beaked whales may be confused with pilot whales or large dolphins.


  • beaked whales have no teeth apart from one or two pairs in the lower jaw that usually erupt only in adult males, which use them for fighting and establishing dominance
  • beaked whales are deep-diving animals that forage on deep sea squids; they capture their prey by sucking them into their mouths
  • scientists believe there are still some species of beaked whales that have not yet been discovered
  • these species are likely to be vulnerable to noise pollution and may experience life-threatening injuries from anthropogenic noises such as navy sonar and seismic exploration.  Cuvier’s beaked whales have also been found with plastic bags and other debris in their stomachs, which contributed to their deaths.

Baird’s beaked whales


Baird’s beaked whales

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