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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


Minke Whale

Balaenoptera acutorostrata .


Minke Whale EB Tarry

Minke Whale

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The genus Balaenoptera contains the baleen whales : Minke Whale, Fin Whale, Bryde’s Whale (Buda’s), Sei Whale (Sigh) , and Blue Whale.  All members of the genus share some similar characteristics. They are commonly referred to as Roquals. Humpback Whales are baleen whales that do not belong to this genus. The Humpbacks are easy to identify and separate from the Balaenoptera.

The Balaenoptera are slim, fast moving whales.

They have long narrow flippers in contrast to the paddle shaped flippers of the Right Whales. The flippers are not as long as those of the Humpback Whale and are more pointed.

All have throat pleats which facilitates filter feeding best described under the section on Humpback Whales.

All have two blow holes. Under normal conditions the blow is a tall column and is neither “V” shaped or forward leaning. Strong winds can cause the column of the blow to fall over and appear more bushy.

There are good structural and behavioral characteristics for each whale to help the identification at sea.

Minke WhaleTaxonomy
Two subspecies are currently recognized with a third subspecies not yet named or recognized. The Antartic Minke Whale is a full species..

acutorostata acutorostata North Atlantic Minke Whale or Common Minke Whale
B. a. scammoni North Pacific Minke Whale
B. a. (subspecies) A dwarf form not yet recognized or named as a subspecies.
B. bonaernsis Antartic Minke Whale

This page discusses the North Atlantic Minke Whale which is frequently seen on whale watches and pelagic trips from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Sometimes overlooked because it does not spend much time on the surface.

Smaller than either the Humpback or the Fin Whale, the Minke Whales rarely spends much time on the surface providing few opportunities for photographs. The picture above captures a Minke Whale starting a dive. Notice the sickle shaped dorsal fin.

When the whale first surfaces both the dorsal fin and the blow holes are seen at the same time.

Head is triangular shaped with rather pointed snout. Dorsal fin is sickle-shaped, tall and placed on the rear 1/3 of the back. Light marks on back variable and can possible be used to identify individuals.

The fippers have a white band across the upper surface which is a good identification mark.

The ventral pleats end just about at the rear end of the flippers attachment.

Does not lift flukes on diving. Seldom breaches. Occasionally spyhops. May follow small boats. The blow is weak and is seen at the same time that the dorsal fin is visible. Rarely breeches. The author has only seen a Minke Whale breech once and that was near Cape Cod.

The Minke Whale feeds on small fish such as Herring or Capelin and small crustaceans. Known to feed just under the surface.

Range and Distribution
If you include all the subspecies the Minke Whale is one of the most widely distributed baleen whale. They occur in the North Atlandtic, North Pacific from tropical to polar waters. They are found in coastal and shelf waters, but migrate south and north in deeper ocean waters.

Other Sea Life   |   Cetaceans Index   |  Baleen WhalesHumpback | Fin | Blue | Sei  |  Minke   | Right   | Top of Page

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