Beluga/White Whale

Beluga Whale

Image: courtesy of Thomas O’Brien

By Tom O’Brien

Belugas are also called white whales, and their unusual color makes them one of the most familiar and easily distinguishable of all the whales. Calves are born gray or even brown and only fade to white as they become sexually mature around five years of age.

White whales are smallish, ranging from 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6.1 meters) in length. They have rounded foreheads and no dorsal fin.

Pod of belugas swimming

Pod of belugas swimming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Belugas generally live together in small groups known as pods. They are social animals and very vocal communicators that employ a diversified language of clicks, whistles, and clangs. Belugas can also mimic a variety of other sounds.

These whales are common in the Arctic Ocean’s coastal waters, though they are found in subarctic waters as well. Arctic belugas migrate southward in large herds when the sea freezes over. Animals trapped by Arctic ice often die, and they are prey for polar bears, killer whales, and for Arctic people. They are hunted by indigenous people of the north, and by commercial fisheries that brought some populations, such as those in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to near collapse.

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