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Baird’s beaked whale

Berardius bairdii

The largest of the beaked whales, Bairds beaked whales are natural socialites and accomplished divers, swimming to depths of up to 1,200 metres.

Study around Bairds beaked whales has led to many questions surrounding their genetic link to other whales. For a long time, it was wondered whether they were in fact the same species as Arnoux’s beaked whale, yet genetic research has proven this not to be the case.

Other names: Northern four-toothed whale; Giant bottle-nosed whale; North Pacific bottlenose whale

bairds-beaked-whale-illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 10.7m 11.1m 4.6m
Maximum weight Unknown 12,000kg Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Data Deficient

What do Baird's beaked whales look like?

Baird's beaked whales are the largest beaked whales and can grow to just over 11 metres in length, with females just pipping the males as the larger sex. With long, slender bodies, they have proud foreheads which protrude in a dense lump. Unlike their bodies, which are brownish-grey, these melons turn a whitish hue as they age. Like all beaked whales, Baird's beaked whales have grooves under their throats which help them when they are feeding.

A useful identifying feature, Baird's beaked whales have long beaks with a distinct underbite. Jutting out beyond the upper jaw, the lower jaw has two pairs of teeth which erupt in both males and females. Giving them a toothy grin, the front pair of teeth can sometimes be seen even when their mouths are closed. Adding to their piratical charm, these teeth can also become encrusted with barnacles as they get older.

Differing from other beaked whales in size, Baird's beaked whales also have different dorsal fins. Sat quite far back on their bodies, their dorsal fins are small and triangular and have a round curve under the tip. As well as petite dorsal fins, their rounded flippers are relatively small too and are set forward on their bodies.

The current population size is unknown.

What is life like for Baird's beaked whales?

Baird's beaked whales live for a long time, with males outliving the  females. Fortunately for such long-lived beings, they are really social and most commonly form tight-knit groups of between 5 and 20 whales. Swimming closely along together, they surface, breathe and sometimes breach at the same time, creating a sort of synchronicity within the group.

Highly social as they are, Baird's beaked whales are naturally quite curious and this occasionally extends to humans and boats. However, life amongst the ranks isn’t always so harmonious for these whales, and males in particular can be covered in white scarring from past disputes.

What do Baird's beaked whales eat?

Talented divers, Baird's beaked whales can comfortably dive to depths of 800 to 1,200 meters deep. This helps them maintain their diet, which consists largely of squid and pelagic and deep-sea fish.

Where do Baird's beaked whales live?

Baird’s beaked whales are found in deep water habitats in the north Pacific Ocean and they prefer life in deep waters near the continental shelf and seamounts.

Although we know a bit about their migratory movements, we still don’t know for certain where Baird's beaked whales go in the winter months.

Aerodynamic divers

Baird's beaked whales can tuck their flippers away into small depressions in their sides when they want to dive.

Distribution map

Baird's beaked whale distribution map

Baird's beaked whales need your help

The main threats...

  • Whaling – Baird's beaked whales are still hunted in large numbers in Japan.
  • Pollution – toxic chemicals from plastics, litter and oil spills build up in Baird's beaked whales, seriously harming their health and their ability to have young.
  • Fishing gear – Baird's beaked whales get accidentally caught in fishing nets and lines, injuring or even killing them.

You can help save Baird's beaked whales...

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