Bowhead Whale

Scientific Name:
Balaena mysticetus
12.0 - 20.0 m (39.4 - 65.6 ft)
60000 - 80000 kg (132000 - 176000 lbs)
good to go
Zooplankton (copepods, eiphausiids)

Physical characteristics

The mouth is bowhead shaped. It has no dorsal fin and is seen as two humps from above the water. The coloration is black with white cin patch. The baleens are dark gray to black with a silvery shimmer. There are 350 pairs that are up to 4.5 m long and 36 cm wide.

Behavioral characterization

Known to be skim feeders that consume about 1,800 kg per day. They are slow swimmers and not considered to be deep divers. They can be seen breaching and tail slapping. They are very vocal.



Population size

Estimated 24,900


Humans and killer whales.

Migration/Dispersal patterns

They migrate within their habitat (from summer feeding to wintering areas) rather than seasonally moving to more temperate waters like other great whales do.

Social system/Group size

Usually seen solitary or in groups of 2 - 3, but larger groups may be formed to feed or to migrate.

Major threats

Habitat degradation, pollution and illegal hunting.

Research efforts

The WWF documents and protects critical feeding areas.

Fun fact

The Bowhead whale has the longest baleen of the mysticetes: 4.5 m. Also, the females are bigger than males in this weird sexual dimorphism.