BEAKED WHALE

Mesoplodon spp.

The beaked whale family is made up of at least 21 species. In the Azores we can see six different species: Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens) (pictured above), blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris), northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus), Cuvier’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon cavirostris), True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) and Gervais’ beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus). Little is known about beaked whales due to their typical shy and elusive behaviour. Sighting information from our vigia (onshore lookout) indicate beaked whales are fairly common, especially during the summer months, but we do not often see them from our boats. Beaked whales are known to spend very little time at the surface (about 8% has been reported) and are therefore very difficult to observe. Beaked whales are so named because of their prominent beak which they often bring high out of the water upon surfacing. Usually only the male will have 2 teeth in the lower jaw (which often protrude over the upper jaw) whereas the females usually do not have teeth. The teeth can be used to identify the species, as it is often difficult to positively identify the species during an encounter (many beaked whales can only be identified by collecting the DNA from stranded whales). Beaked whales are found in deep waters, usually around the edges of continental shelves where the water drops away steeply (such as around the islands of the Azores). Here they carry out prolonged dives to feed primarily on squid. At the surface beaked whales can be distinguished by their relatively long back with a traingular or slightly curved dorsal fin that is set far back. Another characteristic of the beaked whales is the abscence of a fluke notch.

Video Footage

Species Details

Sowerby’s beaked whale length

Male: 5.5 m

Female: 5.1 m

Calf: 2.4 m


Sowerby’s beaked whale weight

Male: 1,300 kg

Female: 1,300 kg

Calf: 170 – 185 kg


Species Specs

Global population: Unknown (population trend unknown)
Status: Data Deficient
Diet: Squid, small fish
Teeth: 2 in the lower jaw (only males)
Longevity: 35 years
Breeding age: Unknown
Gestation: 12 months
Nursing: 1 year

In other languages

Portuguese: Baleia-de-bico-de-Sowerby
Spanish: Zifio de Sowerby
French: Baleine de Sowerby
Italian: Mesoplodonte di Sowerby
German: Sowerby-Zweizahnwal, Nordsee-Schnabelwal
Dutch: Gewone spitssnuitdolfijn, Noordzee-spitssnuitdolfijn
Swedish: Nordsjönäbbval, Sowerbys näbbval
Norwegian: Nordspisshval, spisshval, Sowerbys spisshval
Danish: Almindelig næbhval
Finnish: Nokkavalas
Polish: Wal dwuzębny, delfin Soverby’ego

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