Beluga Whales

Map of beluga stocks in alaska

At birth, beluga whales are dark blue-gray in color, measure 4-5 feet long, and weigh 100-140 pounds. The color lightens, usually turning white at 5-6 years old. Beluga whales can grow to 15 feet and can weigh more than 3,000 lbs. Belugas are robust-bodied and have adapted to the Arctic with a blubber thickness usually 4-6 inches. The belugas have a narrow ridge that runs down the rear of their backs, which allows them to swim freely under floating ice. The belugas are muscular creatures with a small rounded head, neck flexibility (unfused cervical vertebrae), and are quite mobile. This helps them to maneuver easily and catch prey, using their 32 to 40 teeth for grabbing their prey, which is then swallowed whole. Belugas use echolocation, a biological sonar, to maneuver in murky water, find prey, find breathing holes (in ice), and avoid predators. They also use sound to communicate by producing a variety of clicks, chirps, and whistles.  

Management and Research

Species in the Spotlight

Contact Information

Barbara Mahoney
Marine mammal strandings, co-management, Cook Inlet beluga whales
(907) 271-3448
Barbara.Mahoney@noaa.gov

Mandy Migura
Cook Inlet beluga whales, marine mammal strandings
(907) 271-1332
Mandy.Migura@noaa.gov