Gray's beaked whale

Mesoplodon grayi
Other names: 
  • Scamperdown whale
  • Southern beaked whale
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 5.7m
  • Female: 5.3m
  • Calf: 2.1m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: 1,100 kg's
  • Female: Unknown
  • Calf: Unknown
  • Squid
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 
Not Listed

Gray's beaked whales are slightly better known than other beaked whales. There have been several live sightings of individuals and small groups in the wild. Information gained from these live sightings supplements that gained from stranded individuals.


The Gray's beaked whale is among the most easily recognisable of the beaked whales due to the long slender white beak and straight jawline, which resembles in profile the rough-toothed dolphin. Males have two small teeth set back from the tip of the beak, which can be seen when the mouth is closed. Both the male and female have rows of tiny teeth in the upper jaw behind the main teeth. The body is robust and spindle-shaped with a small head and a flat, white forehead. It is dark blue-grey, brown-grey or black on the upper side and the belly is pale grey with white or yellow spots on the underside and sides. Scars and rake marks indicate there may be competition among males for mates.


Gray's beaked whales seem to be more active at the surface than other beaked whales and have been seen breaching at a shallow angle. When swimming at speed they make low, arc-shaped leaps, and when surfacing Gray's beaked whales typically poke their white beaks out of the water first. They have been observed singly, in pairs, and in small groups. A mass stranding of 28 animals occurred on the Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand in 1874 suggesting the possibility that large numbers may be encountered together.


Gray's beaked whales appear to prefer temperate southern hemisphere waters that are below 30ºS. The majority of sightings are from the southern Indian Ocean, but the most information about the species comes from strandings in New Zealand. There have been a significant number of sightings from a deep water area south of Madagascar and there is only one record of Gray's beaked whale from the northern hemisphere - a single animal on the North Sea coast of the Netherlands in 1927. Gray's beaked whale has not been the target of a directed hunt and has not been found entangled in fishing gear. As with other beaked whales, however, they may be susceptible to climate change and noise pollution. There is no worldwide population estimate for this species. The IUCN listing is Data Deficient.

Distribution map: