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    White-Beaked Dolphin

Length: 2.5 – 3 m (8 - 10’)
Weight: 180 – 350 kg (400 - 600lbs)
Population size in Canada: unknown
Population size in World: unknown, believed to be abundant
Conservation status in Canada: Not at Risk (COSEWIC)
Conservation status in World: Lower risk: least concern (IUCN)

Classification
Latin Name: Lagenorhynchus albirostris
Other Names: White-nosed dolphin, Squidhound, White-beaked porpoise
Suborder: Odontocete (Toothed Whale)
Family: Delphinidae

Field Identification

  • up to 3 m in length
  • large, robust dolphin
  • one blowhole
  • body mostly black to dark grey with white to light grey patches on the sides
  • short, thick beak
  • typically upper and lower lip (beak) is white
  • prominent dorsal fin, tall & falcate with a broad base
  • fast, powerful swimmers & may create a “rooster-tail
  • may lift whole body out of water when swimming at high speed
  • may mix with other species
  • group size 2-30 (less commonly 50 or more)

Description
White-beaked dolphins are a robust dolphin, with overall dark colouration and lighter grey to white patches. The small, thick beak is usually light grey in colour, however this feature is variable. A light grey “saddle patch” is present behind the tall dorsal fin, and on the flanks. The belly is white. The maximum size is 3 m and 350 kg, males are normally larger than same-age females.

Life History
Births seem to occur in the summer throughout their range after a gestation of 10-11 months.  Both females and males reach sexual maturity when about 2.5 m in length.  The duration of lactation and other details of life history are unknown.

Distribution
White-beaked dolphins are found throughout the north Atlantic, extending well into subarctic waters.  The species seems to prefer coastal and nearshore waters.  These dolphins are more common off Europe than North America.  In Atlantic Canada, the species is common throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coast of Labrador, as well as the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia.  White-beaked dolphins are less common in the Bay of Fundy.

Diet
The diet of white-beaked dolphins appears to be relatively variable, consisting of a variety of fish and squid.  Some sources report feeding on benthic invertebrates.

Behaviour
White-beaked dolphins, like other dolphin species, are highly social and are usually found in groups. Groups of 30 are common but occasionally much larger groups are observed. They will often approach boats and are known for spectacular aerial behaviour.  In some areas they will form mixed groups with other dolphins (e.g., Atlantic white-sided dolphins). White-beaked dolphins are known for creating a “rooster tail splash” when swimming at high speeds, a characteristic splash created in front of the animal as they charge through the water.

Population size
The population size of this species is not known, however, it is generally believed to be abundant.

Threats
There is some harvesting of white-beaked dolphins off of Greenland.  Animals are by-caught in trawl and gill net fisheries.  Secondary effects from overfishing and acoustic pollution are likely harming this species.

This page was prepared by Peter Simard of Blind Bay Cetacean Studies, February 2007.