Bryde's whale

Balaenoptera edeni
Other names: 
  • Common Bryde's whale
  • Pygmy Bryde's whale
  • Tropical whale
  • Eden's whale
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 15m
  • Female: 16.5m
  • Calf: 4m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: Unknown
  • Female: 40,000kg
  • Calf: Unknown
  • Schooling fish; e.g. anchovies
  • Krill
  • Squid
  • Planktonic crustaceans
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 

The Bryde's whale (pronounced "broo-dess"), is named after Johan Bryde who helped build the first whaling factory in Durban, South Africa in 1909. Sometimes known, appropriately, as the "tropical whale", this is the only baleen whale species that lives all year-round in warmer waters near the equator. The identity and number of species in the "Bryde's whale complex" however is still unclear. In addition to the "ordinary" Bryde's whale, with a worldwide distribution in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans, one or more smaller forms which tend to be more coastal in distribution have also been described. For the moment, the taxonomic status of the smaller forms is unclear and there may be several additional species and/or subspecies however currently two are recognised; B. e. brydei - offshore Bryde's whale, B. e. edeni - Eden's whale. Bryde's whales are closely related to several other fast swimming, medium-to-large whales all with a similar body shape and which may be confused with each other when viewed at sea. This group includes sei, minke and fin whales.


The Bryde's whale has three parallel ridges on the top of its head. It has between 40 and 70 throat pleats which allow its mouth to expand when feeding. As with some of the other baleen whales, the Bryde's whale primarily eats schooling fish and sometimes krill and other planktonic crustaceans. The Bryde's whale has a slender body which is smoky blue-grey in colour with a sickle-shaped dorsal fin. The body is often mottled with some scars caused by parasites and/or cookie-cutter sharks. The flippers are slender, pointed and relatively short - approximately one tenth of their body length. The broad, distinctive tail flukes are rarely seen above the surface.


The Bryde's whale usually feeds alone, though mothers and calves often feed together. It is known to make sudden changes of direction when feeding both on the surface and underwater. Sometimes inquisitive, the Bryde's whale can be seen approaching or swimming alongside boats. It has irregular breathing patterns, and will often blow four to seven thin, hazy spouts, followed by a dive, usually about two minutes long, although it is capable of staying below the surface for longer. They have also been see to blow or exhale whilst underwater. When surfacing between dives, the Bryde's whale rarely shows more than the top of its head.


Bryde's whales do not migrate over long distances, and they feed all year round, unlike some other baleen whales. It is the only species of baleen whale that spends the whole year in tropical and subtropical zones, preferring waters of 16°c or more. There are both offshore and coastal-dwelling groups, and a dwarf type of Bryde's whale has recently been recognised around the Solomon Islands. Japanese whalers started hunting Bryde's whales again in 2000 when 43 were killed in the Northwest Pacific for so-called "scientific research". Bryde's whales are also threatened by noise and chemical pollution. The IUCN lists Bryde's whales as Least Concern, while the Gulf of Mexico subpopulation is classified as Critically Endangered (2018).

Distribution map: