Albino Beauty: What Is A Beluga Whale?

what is a beluga whale

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The Beluga whale is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful creatures in the ocean. Their snow-white color makes them incredibly difficult to spot in the Arctic Ocean and nearby seas.

Beluga whales are known as sea canaries as they are one of the most vocal of all whales. They love to communicate and are incredibly social.

But what is a beluga whale? Are they friendly and what’s so special about them?

Well in this post, we’re going to answer exactly that. Helping you better understand this beautiful whale and if they are something you should stray away from if you see them in the wild.

Let’s get into it…

So What Is A Beluga Whale?

The Beluga whale is best known for its white color. White whales are incredibly rare, but not the Beluga.

All beluga whales are white which makes them unique in their own right. This stunning whale is an Arctic and sub-arctic cetacean.

The Beluga whale is one-half of the Monodontidae family, along with the narwhal. But the Beluga is the only member of the genus Delphinapterus.

These impressive whales have a lifespan of between 35 – 50 years old and can weigh 1400kg when fully grown.

beluga whale
Image by James H.

Although one of the smallest species of whale, the beluga’s unique forehead and distinct color make them easy to spot in Arctic waters.

Beluga whales are not picky eaters, their diet consists of Octopuses and Squid, Crabs, Salmon, Clams, Cod, Herring, and much more.

They can hold their breath for around 25 minutes and dive up to depths of 800m to hunt for prey.

Are Beluga Whales Friendly?

Beluga whales are some of the most friendly animals in the ocean. They are one of the only types of whales that spend time away from their family and actually make friends outside of their pod.

Alongside the grey whale, belugas enjoy communicating with other whales and are incredibly inquisitive towards humans.

Research shows that beluga whales form communities much as we humans do. They create cultures, support structures, and social networks, allowing them to communicate and connect with one another.

Beluga whales live in pods which are typically around 10 whales strong consisting of both male and female whales.

However, some pods can have hundreds or even thousands of beluga whales in them!

Are Beluga Whales Aggressive?

Just like all wild animals, beluga whales can show aggression at times, especially if they are threatened.

The main threat to beluga whales is Orca and Polar Bears. If a beluga whale’s life or calf is threatened, they will do their best to deter the attack but sadly they are often unsuccessful in doing so.

Beluga whales are not a threat to humans, and although you should show caution around them in the wild much like all wildlife, you do not need to fear these beautiful whales.

beluga whale
Image by Peter Glenday

As a human, you would need to do harm or put a beluga whale in danger for them to be aggressive toward you.

As mentioned previously, these whales are very inquisitive and social, so they will often swim up to boats to scope them out.

This is not something you should fear and is a very natural behavior for these whales.

What Is Special About Beluga Whales?

The beluga whale is very unique in its own way, it has two distinct features that set it apart from almost all other whales in the ocean.

White Stark Color

Firstly is their stunning stark white color. This is incredibly unique and although would stand out like a sore thumb in many environments, it allows them to stay camouflaged in the polar icecaps from their predators.

In the Arctic Ocean where these whales typically live, their white color allows them to stay hidden from polar bears and orcas.

Their skin is effective in keeping them hidden and actually sheds seasonally to keep it gleaming white.


Another distinct feature of the beluga whale is the large bump on its forehead which is known as a melon.

The “melon” is used by the beluga whale as a communication tool and allows them to make different sounds and facial expressions.

The large bump on their forehead helps them use their echolocation! Yep, just like bats, these fascinating whales use echolocation to navigate the ocean.

They make a series of clicking sounds that bounce off the environment which helps the beluga locate food and stay out of danger.

Should I Be Afraid Of Beluga Whales?

As a human, you should not be afraid of beluga whales. These inquisitive whales are not a threat to us and certainly won’t cause us any harm so long as we are not a danger to them.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a beluga whale in the wild, don’t be afraid. However, I wouldn’t recommend you jump in the water and swim with them as you’ll likely be freezing cold, literally.

What Do Beluga Whales Eat?

Beluga whales have a varied diet. They typically eat Octopus, Squid, Crabs, Shrimp, Clams, Fish, Sandworms, and much more!

They prey on roughly 100 different food sources that live in the ocean. Don’t worry, humans are off the menu!

How Big Are Beluga Whales?

Beluga whales are one of the smallest of the whale species, in fact, they are often mistaken for albino dolphins because of their color and size.

The average male beluga whale will grow to be around 13 to 20 feet long and weigh around 2500 pounds!

Beluga whale calves are usually around 5ft and weigh roughly 130 pounds.

beluga whale
Image by Javier Castañón

An interesting fact about beluga whales is that around 40% of their total body weight is actually blubber.

Blubber is a thick layer of insulation that helps keep the whales warm in their arctic environment. Some beluga whales can have a whopping 10 inches of blubber which makes for a tasty meal for the whale’s predators!

Do Beluga Whales Migrate?

Beluga whales are typically found in Arctic waters and its nearby seas in the Northern Hemisphere. They can be spotted in the likes of Alaska, Russia, Canada, and Greenland too.

In the summer months, they will typically travel 2500km north of Alaska to the Canadian Beaufort Sea where the waters are warmer.

Then in the autumn, they migrate south again as the ice forms in the Arctic.

Final Thoughts

Beluga whales are fascinating animals that are breathtaking to see in the wild. Their unique features help them communicate like no other and help them stay camouflaged from predators.

These whales are known to be friendly animals as they often bond and make friends with other whales from outside of their pod.

They are non-aggressive animals that feed on a variety of different food sources to keep them fuelled for their long migration during the summer months.

Hopefully, this post has given you an insight into beluga whales and you’ve learned a thing or two about these stunning whales.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to check out some of our other posts on whales to learn more.