Beluga Whale | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Beluga Whale

Delphinapterus leucas

Also known as

White whale, sea canary, beluga

Distribution

Throughout the Arctic ocean and the St. Lawrence Estuary

Écosystèmes/habitats

Shallow, coastal waters and near ice edge

Feeding Habits

Foraging predator

Conservation Status

Endangered/Threatened/Special Concern

Taxonomie

Suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales); Family Monodontidae (white whales)

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Beluga whales are easy to spot, thanks to their white colour, large size and bulging forehead. At birth these pale whales aren’t white at all – they’re slate grey, and it can take up to eight years to develop their distinct white colour. They are unique among whales because they have very flexible necks and can move their head in almost any direction, separately from their body. They are also known as “sea canaries” because they are a chatty species. They are able to create such a wide variety of sounds due to the tissue in their large, bulbous forehead, called a melon, which is used to create and amplify sounds in the marine environment. The noises belugas make are both to communicate with their pod as well as to navigate. Belugas use echolocation to navigate in the dark waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Beluga whales have rounded front, or pectoral, fins and they lack a dorsal fin, unlike most other whale and dolphin species. They have a very prominent, bulging forehead and a short, blunt snout. They grow to be three to four metres long, weighing anywhere from 250 to 1,000 kilograms.  Male belugas are larger than females.