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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Other Sea Life

Baleen Whales

Humpback Whale
Minke Whale
Sei Whale
Fin Whale
Blue Whale
Right Whale


Baleen Whales


Fin Whale

Balaenoptera physalus

(Linnaeus 1758)

Comments to webmaster

Fin Whale blow Steve Mirick

The blow of a Fin Whale is a strong column of air which appears to be a single column despite the whale having two nostrils.

Finback, Common Roqual, and Razorback referring to the sharp dorsal ridge on tail. (Folkens 2002).

Big and Fast
The Fin Whale is the second largest animal on earth. Second only to the Blue Whale which is the largest animal ever to have lived on earth unless a dinosaur fossil unearthed recently is accepted as even larger than the Blue Whale. With a top speed of 40 knots It is the fastest swimmer of the large whales.

Identification - Description
As is true of most animals that live in the sea, the underside of the Fin Whale is white and the back is dark gray. There is a whiteish mark behind the head. The Fin Whale is long and slim with a dorsal fin on the posterior third of the animal's back.

Fin whale

The coloration of the head is most unusual in the animal world because it is asymmetrical. The right side of the lower jaw is white, while the left side is dark. When seen in waters off the east coast, the white lower jaw may appear green because of the plankton in the water. The baleen inside the mouth follows somewhat the same patter being light on the front of the right side.

The fin whale is brownish to dark or light gray dorsally and white ventrally. The left side of the head is dark gray, while the right side exhibits a complex pattern of contrasting light and dark markings. On the right lower jaw is a white or light gray "right mandible patch", which sometimes extends out as a light "blaze" laterally and dorsally unto the upper jaw and back to just behind the blowholes.
Fin Whale Leonard Medlock

Dorsal Fin
The Fin Whale dorsal fin is on the posterior third of the animal's back. The dorsal fin is not seen at the same time the blow hole is visible.

The dorsal fin is short and variably shaped but usually sickle shaped Where the forward edge of the fin is attached to the back it makes a 130 degree angle with the the back.

This is important in separating the Fin Whale from the Sei and Bryde’s Whales where the angle is closer to 90 degrees. The base of the fin, it is wider than it is tall. Photograph by Leonard Medlock.

 The flipper of the Fin Whale are shorter than Humpback Whale and more pointed. They are rarely observed on whale watches because the Fin Whale is rather quiet while on the surface and often simply come up to breath 1-5 times and  goes back down..

The Fin Whale only rarely flukes when diving making it hard to get a photograph of the tail.

Fin Whale

A Baleen whale the Fin Whale feeds on a range of foods: cephalopods, fish, crustaceans.  It feeds by lunging with its mouth open into schools of prey.  It may achieve bursts of speed of 26 knots. Folkens(2002).  The Fin Whale has throat pleats which allows the mouth to take in more water when feeding.

Seen in the Atlantic, Pacific oceans both inshore and in deep water. Frequently seen off the coast of New England.

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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