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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Other Sea Life


Toothed Whales

Sperm Whale

Pilot Whale

Beaked Whales


Toothed Whales

Beaked Whales

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

Ziphius caviostris


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Cuvier's Beaked Whale Emmalee Tarry

This photo of Cuvier's Beaked Whale was taken on the CORE 2001 trip to the Continental Shelf Edge by Emmalee Tarry using one of the first digital cameras available.  It stored pictures on a floppy disk drive and was so slow I only got one picture.  Now that interest in photography has grown perhaps better photos will be available.

Beaked Whales Ziphiidae
The family of whales known as the Beaked Whales are elusive in all oceans. They are so difficult to see that most of what we know about these whales comes from stranded individuals. The beaked whales in general are deep divers and spend little time on the surface. They are found mostly in water at least 1,000 feet deep and avoid boats.

Most members of the family, have an elongated beak and all have a pair of grooves on the throat that converge in the front. The flippers can be tucked into depressions in the body wall giving them a sleek appearance. They are toothed whales, but most retain only a single pair of teeth in adult males.

How to See a Beaked Whale
Your only chance of seeing a beaked whale in our area will come on the long offshore trips to the continental shelf edge. Even then you should expect to have to work at it. Pay special attention to any call of Risso's Dolphin or Grampus Dolphin which has a very similar head structure to Cuvier's Beaked Whale which lacks the long beak. If it has a tall dorsal fin it is a dolphin. A short dorsal fin set 2/3 of the way back is a good indication of Cuvier's Beaked Whale. (see below).

A sighting of a Beaked Whale will resurrect an otherwise dismal trip.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale
The only beaked whale the author has experienced in our area is Cuvier's Beaked Whale. It has the widest distribution of any of the family.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale has a very short beak and may be mistaken for a Risso' Dolphin. The blow is low and they can dive for a half hour or more.
'Prefers deep offshore tropical to cool temperate marine waters. Strandings have occurred in the Atlantic as far north as Massachusetts and the Shetland Islands and as far south as Tierra del Fuego and southern Africa, and in the Indo-Pacific from the Aleutians to southern Australia, New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.'  Reference unknown

Author’s Two Experiences with Cuvier’s Beaked Whale in New England waters

CORE 3-day trip to the Continental Shelf 2001
Eleven of these unusual whales were seen on the 2001 June CORE 3 day trip to the canyons of the Continental Shelf south of Nantucket.
The first sighting occured while the boat was still anchored for the night and the author was eating breakfast in the dining room. A pod of 8 Cuvier's Beaked Whales surfaced right next to the boat and I was able to grab my camera and get out on deck for this close picture. Later 3 more animals were seen by the spotter at a distance.

My second experience with Cuvier's Beaked Whale occurred on the 2002 CORE trip to the continental shelf edge. This time I saw one whale breech and another in the water beside the breeching whale. The whales were some distance from the boat and were seen only by 3 people on the trip all of whom were located in different parts of the boat.

The CORE trips were wonderful 3 day trips starting at 9 PM from Gloucester and spending 3 nights and 3 days at sea. Unfortunately they are no longer being held.

Other Sea Life  | Cetaceans  |   Toothed Whales | Sperm Whale  Pilot Whale   Beaked Whales      Top of Page  Comments to webmaster

Folkens, Peter (2002) Guide to Marine Mammals of the World Alfred A. Knopf New York

Kinze, Carl Charistian (2001) Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic Princeton University Press Princeton NJ