North Atlantic right whale

Eubalaena glacialis

11 - 18m



No dorsal fin

The North Atlantic right whale has a large head which can take up ¼ of its total body length with a strongly arched mouth line. It has callosities situated on its lower head and lip, these can be pink, yellow or orange in colour due to whale lice living on them. Researchers can tell individuals apart by the shape of the callosities. They have large paddle-shaped pectoral fins and the largest testes in the world, with each weighing about a tonne.

Key features: 

  • V-shaped blow ~5m high 
  • No dorsal fin, broad back 
  • Black, rotund body with irregular white patched on underparts 
  • High arched jawline wth pale callosities 


North Atlantic right whales are curious, playful acrobatic animals that like to breach, pectoral fin and tail slap, and spy hop. They are inquisitive and like to approach slow-moving vessels as they are slow swimmers. They are seen in small pods of 1-2- individuals, but larger groups can be seen in feeding areas. 


The North Atlantic right whale population was decimated by whalers in the 1900’s and since then has struggled to increase. Their name came from the whaling era when they were ‘the right whale to kill’ because they floated once killed. Threats for North Atlantic right whales are entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, threatened habitat loss and human disturbance.


This species of whale is restricted to the North Atlantic with less than 300 individuals left. Once widespread across the Atlantic it is now confined to coasts of Canada and North America.

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