Southern right whale

Eubalaena australis

11 - 16m



No dorsal fin

Southern right whales are large baleen whales that do not have rorqual pleats. Instead, they have a strongly arched mouthline that can be seen when they are surfacing. Most are a uniform black colour, but some have white markings on their underparts. Southern right whales have large, paddle-shaped pectoral fins, a black tail fluke with smooth edges and a large head up to 1/5 of their body length. 

Key Features:

  • V-shaped blow ~5m high

  • No dorsal fin and a broad back 

  • Black, rotund body with irregular white patches on underparts 

  • High arched jawline with pale callosities 


Southern right whales are usually seen on their own or in small groups of up to 3 individuals. They are known for being slow swimming and inquisitive and will approach boats. Other behaviours they exhibit are logging, acrobatic breaching, fin slapping, tail slapping and spyhopping. They have two blowholes that produce a v-shaped blow that can be 5m tall. They raise their flukes before a dive and typically remain at the surface for 1 - 3 minutes.


Southern right whales were hunted almost to the brink of extinction when global commercial whaling was legal. Their numbers are still low and they are now at risk from pollution, ship strike, and entanglement in fishing gear.


As their name suggests, Southern right whales are found in the southern hemisphere and can be seen throughout the southern ocean and from the coasts of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, South Australia, and New Zealand.

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.

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