Beluga whale

Delphinapterus leucas

3 - 4.6m



No dorsal fin

Ancient mariners used to call the beluga the Sea Canary due to its great repertoire of sounds which can be heard from above the surface. It can also pull lots of facial expressions due to the ability to alter the shape of its forehead and lips. Not all belugas are white their body colour changes over time. They are born pink-brown and change to pure white by the time they are 10yrs old.

Key features:

  • Large rounded melon and a small beak
  • No dorsal fin
  • Pale grey or yellow to pure white
  • Often sighted spyhopping


The beluga is normally a slow swimmer that spends much of its time at or near the surface. When surfacing, the head and inconspicuous blow appear first, before a long slow roll of the finless back, before they slowly submerge. Belugas are inquisitive and are often seen spyhopping and tail fluking. They are a particularly social animal, usually found in same sex groups of 2 - 25 individuals, occasionally individuals can be found travelling long distances. They feed on fish, squid and crustaceans on the seabed. 


Belugas have been hunted for centuries and are still being hunted for food and captured for display in aquariums. 

Other threats include; oil and gas development, global warming and chemical pollution.


Belugas can be seen from the subarctic to the high arctic waters. Seasonal distributions are related to the presence of ice packs, spending the winter months close to and under ice packs whilst spending the summer months around estuaries, inlets and coastal bays.

Study whales and dolphins as an ORCA OceanWatcher

The ORCA OceanWatchers online training course, along with a bespoke app, will enable everyone to collect data about whales, dolphins and porpoises. And it can be collected from anywhere that you can see the sea - whether that’s from your local beach, on holiday at the coast, scanning the seas from a cruise ship, travelling via ferry, or from your own boat.

Find out more

You may also be interested in