Spotlight on Beaked Whales from the Visual Team!

sowerby's beaked whale

A single Sowerby’s beaked whale. Photo credit: NOAA/NEFSC Desray Reeb (BOEM).

During the AMAPPS surveys this summer we have had some terrific weather for spotting and identifying beaked whales. Over several different days, the seas have been glassy calm with barely a ripple on the surface, allowing us to detect and sometimes photograph these elusive, deep-diving whales. To date we have encountered Cuvier’s, Gervais’, Blainville’s, and Sowerby’s beaked whales. Because of their inconspicuous behavior and the fact that they can be seen in only the calmest seas, every opportunity to collect data is important.

Sowerby's Beaked Whale

A group of Sowerby’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon bidens) offshore Canada. Photo credit: NOAA/NEFSC Todd Pusser.

Depending on the species, beaked whales can have a predictable dive pattern. Species like Cuvier’s beaked whales perform a series of short dives, lasting anywhere from 20-25 minutes followed by a much longer foraging dive that can last over an hour. If we find a large group of three or more whales at the surface, and the environmental conditions are just right, we make an effort to follow the whales over several dive cycles. Each observation that we make of beaked whales in the field adds valuable information to the natural history of one of the least known groups of animals on the planet.

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