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Beluga Whale

Beluga Whale Facts

Size Up to 18 ft (5.5 m)
Speed Up to 14 mph (22 km/h) (short distances)
Weight Up to 1.6 tons
Lifespan 30-40 years
Food Fishes, crabs, mollusks
Predators Orcas, polar bears
Habitat Alaska, Canada, Russia, Asia, Norway
Order Whales
Suborder Toothed whales
Family Monodontidae
Scientific name Delphinapterus leucas
Characteristics White plump whale

Main Characteristics

The beluga whale is a white whale with a round head and primarily lives in the bays of colder regions. It is a rather sociable animal which sings exceptionally beautiful songs.

Beluga Whale Photo: JohnL/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

Beluga Whales Aren't White From the Beginning

Beluga whales do not become white before the age of 4 to 5 years. Until then, the young whales are greyish-brown or black.


Why Are Beluga Whales White?

Does a shining white whale not attract too much attention in the sea? Surprisingly, the white color is part of its camouflage. Between the many icebergs and floes in the cold polar region, it is not easy for polar bears to detect the white whale.

Beluga Whales "Shed" Their Skin

During the winter, the beluga whale’s skin on the back and the fins becomes thicker to protect the animal from the cold. During the summer, the whale rubs its body against rocks and gravel to get rid of the thick skin again.

Beluga Whale Photo: Jennifer G. Lang/Shutterstock


Beluga Whales Are the Canaries of the Sea

Beluga whales love to sing and utter the most diverse sounds when doing so. They click, clap, moo, twitter, whistle and rattle. Their sounds can even be perceived outside the water.

Senses and Abilities

Beluga Whales Are Very Slow

The beluga whale is rather slow and swims about at a speed of approximately 5.5 mph (9 km/h). Even an unhurried cyclist would be able to easily overtake the whale. It only goes faster when it is in danger or hunting for prey. Then it reaches a speed of up to 13.6 mph (22 km/h) and can continue at this pace for about 15 minutes.


Belgua Whales Have Facial Expressions

With their slightly raised corners of the mouth, most whales appear to be grinning, even though they have a rigid face. But other than most dolphins, beluga whales can use various facial expressions. Their faces are rather flexible, and while they are singing, the whales often change their facial expressions along with the sounds they make. Thus, they do not only use their songs to “communicate”.


A female beluga whale gives birth to a calf approximately every three years. The little whales are born after a gestation period of 14 months. They already have a length between 4.5 and 5.5 feet (1.40 and 1.70 meters) then and weigh between 99 and 165 lb (45 and 75 kg). They are being breastfed by their mother for about two years.


Where Does the Name Beluga Come From?

“Beluga“ originates from the Russian word "belukha", which means "white".

Does the Beluga Caviar Come From the Beluga Whale?

Fortunately not! Beluga caviar indicates the caviar (fish eggs) of the beluga sturgeon.

Fun Facts

Beluga Whales Can Swim Forward and Backward

Unlike many other whales, beluga whales can swim forwards and backwards.

Beluga Whales and the Human Language

It is said that beluga whales are able to talk. At least one of them seems to know the words fin, bin and swim goggles.

Beluga Whales Love to Cuddle

Rather unusual for whales: Beluga whales love to cuddle when playing around and generally like the body contact with their fellows.

A Beluga Whale in the Rhine

Beluga whales in Germany? In the Rhine? Yes. It sounds unbelievable, but it is true. Normally, beluga whales live in the arctic oceans, but on the 18th May 1966, a beluga whale swam up the Rhine. Apparently, it felt comfortable there, and it took until June to guide “Moby Dick” back into the sea.

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