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North Pacific Bottlenose Whale

















What is taxonomy?

North Pacific bottlenose whales are also known as Baird's beaked whales or giant bottlenose whales.  They usually swim in groups of 2 or 3 but have been seen in herds of 25 to 40 animals.   They are often difficult to approach, their blow is low and indistinct, they often roll sharply when swimming and can dive for as long as twenty minutes.  We know very little about North Pacific bottlenose whales and still less of all other beaked whale species. 

Interesting Facts:

  • The North Pacific bottlenose whale is the second largest toothed whale--the largest toothed whale being the sperm whale.
  • North Pacific bottlenose whales have two pairs of triangular, fist-sized teeth in their lower jaw.  One pair is located at the front tip of the lower jaw while the second pair is located further back and distinct from the first pair.
  • Most North Pacific bottlenose whales are extensively scarred indicating that they live aggressive lives.  The older the North Pacific bottlenose whale is, the more scarring it will likely have

What should I know about North Pacific bottlenose whales?

Where do North Pacific bottlenose whales live?

North Pacific bottlenose whales are usually found in waters off the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific as well as the waters off California, Vancouver Island, Northwest Hawaii, and the Sea of Okhotsk. 

How many North Pacific bottlenose whales are there?

Reliable population estimates are currently unavailable. You can read more about stocks of North Pacific bottlenose whales (Baird's beaked whales) in the NMFS Alaska and Atlantic stock assessment reports.

How can I identify a North Pacific bottlenose whale?

North Pacific bottlenose whales are slate-gray in color, though sometimes they appear dark blue on the upper dorsal portion of their body, pale on their undersides with bulbous foreheads.  Their long, cigar-shaped bodies are often scarred from their encounters with other whales.  Males grow up to 39 feet (11.9 meters) long and females 42 feet (12.8 meters) long.  They have rather small dorsal fins and flippers, a crescent-shaped blowhole, and large flukes that are slightly rounded at the tips with a notch in the center. 

How well can a North Pacific bottlenose whale see or hear?

Little information is known about how North Pacific bottlenose whales can see or hear.  Due to their habit of spending a great deal of time at depths in the ocean, it is probably safe to guess that North Pacific bottlenose whales have poor vision, good hearing, and excellent echolocation skills.

What do North Pacific bottlenose whales eat?

North Pacific bottlenose whale is a deep diver, diving to roughly 3300 feet (1006 meters) in dives that last from 20 minutes to an hour.  Most of their diet consists of squid and small fish.

How do North Pacific bottlenose whales have their young?

North Pacific bottlenose whales reach sexual maturity at about 8-10 years of age.  Females are thought to give birth at three year intervals and most calves are born 15 feet (4.6 meters) in length during the early winter through the late spring after an estimated 10 to 17 month gestation period.   Calves are weaned after a year of nursing. 

How long do North Pacific bottlenose whales live? How do they die?

North Pacific bottlenose whales may live to 50-70 years of age.  Natural causes of death (morality) factors are unknown. 

Where can I find more information about North Pacific bottlenose whales?

Books and the world wide web are excellent places to learn more about marine mammals. 


  • Leatherwood, Stephen. Reeves, Randall R. Foster, Larry.   The Sierra Handbook of Whales and Dolphins.  Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA.  1983.
  • Leatherwood, Stephen.  Reeves, Randall R. Perrin, William F.   Evans, William E.  Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of the Eastern North Pacific and Adjacent Arctic waters; A Guide to their Identification.  Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY.  1988.
  • Wynne, Kate. Folkens, Pieter. Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska.  Alaska Sea Grant Program.  University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK.  1992. 

World Wide Web

There are many more sources to learn about cetaceans.   Check with MML's online library or your local librarian for her or his recommendations.

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This portion of the MML website is intended for a student audience and their educators.
Information within the education website should not be cited in scientific journals or publications.

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