Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whales are the second largest animals in the world and the most frequently encountered baleen whale species in the Azores. Their most distinguishing feature is the asymmetrical markings on the head: on the right side the lower lip, mouth cavity, and baleen plates are white, whereas on the left these features are dark.

The dorsal fin is smaller and more falcate than the one of the similar-looking sei whale, and they have only one ridge on the head (unlike the Bryde’s whale which has three).

Fin whales are among the fastest of the whales, reaching speeds up to 47 km/hr. Because of these fast speeds, the fin whale has gained the nickname “the greyhound of the sea”. Fin whales have a wide global distribution.

While many populations are thought to be migratory, resident populations also exist. In the Azores, migratory fin whales are seen primarily during the spring months. They are usually encountered alone or in small groups and often follow the same path. Sometimes, we can observe feeding behaviour as they pass by the Azores.

Video Footage

Species Details


Male: 25 m
Female: 27 m
Calf:  6 – 7 m


Male: 70,000 kg
Female: 120,000 kg
Calf:  2,000 – 3,000 kg

Species Specs:

Global population:  c.33,000 (population trend unknown)
Status: Endangered
Diet: Small invertebrates (euphausiids and copepods), fish (herring, mackerel, sand lance), squid
Baleen: 260 – 480 pairs
Longevity: Oldest captured was 111 years
Breeding age: Female: 3 – 12 years
Gestation: 11 – 12 months
Nursing: At least 6 months

In other languages:

Portuguese: Baleia-comum
Spanish: Ballena fin
French: Rorqual Commun
Italian: Balenottera commune
German: Finnwal
Dutch: Gewone vinvis
Swedish: Sillval, vanlig fenval
Sami: Reider
Norwegian: Finnhval
Danish: Finhval
Finnish: Sillivalas
Polish: Pletwal blekitny
Russian: Finval, nastoiashchiy polosatik


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