Beluga whales are known as the “canaries of the sea,” a nickname granted by the high-frequency, sometimes bird-like squawks, chirps, whistles, and trills they make. Researchers have descriptions of beluga sounds ranging from “rusty gate hinges” to children shouting. Belugas can change the shape of their melon (the organ used for echolocation) by moving air around in their sinuses, which helps them produce their vast repertoire of sounds. They start vocalizing within hours of being born and are among the most verbal of all whales, using sound for echolocation, hunting, mating, and communication.
In captivity, the high-frequency chirps, whistles, and other sounds made by belugas bounce off the concrete walls of their tanks, and the noise of living on land can cause hearing problems in many captive individuals. The click-trains of echolocation often fall silent in captive whales, their tanks being nothing but an empty hall of echoes. Echolocation is no longer needed to find food or pilot through estuaries and river mouths. In captivity, belugas are quieter, while the ambient noise around them is louder and more constant.
This week, please help WDC ask Clear Channel to support the freedom of these canaries of the sea to keep singing in the wild. Send an email and tell them: “iHeartWhales! Clear Channel, include belugas in your philanthropy projects. Say NO to sponsoring the Georgia Aquarium! Wild Russian belugas shouldn’t be captive in US tanks!”
Thank you for helping keep belugas singing, safe, and free. Check back next week for a new beluga fact & another action alert!