Species Spotlight

Have a favorite whale species or want to learn more about rare whale types you may not have heard about? Check out the Species Spotlight Section for resources on every type of whale!

pod of orcas swimming

NOAA Species Directory

Check out the NOAA Fisheries' Species Directory to learn more information about each whale species you are interested in!

A pod of Baird's beaked whales swimming in the ocean. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Baird's Beaked Whale

Baird's beaked whales, sometimes called giant bottlenose whales, are the largest members of the beaked whale family. Named after renowned naturalist Spencer F. Baird, they can be found throughout the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas and in U.S. waters off the West Coast from California to Alaska

Beluga whale swimming with calf. Credit: Chris Garner, Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson.

Beluga Whale

Beluga whales are known for their white color and range of vocal sounds, earning them the title of "canary of the sea." They are very social animals, forming groups to hunt, migrate, and interact with each other.

Head of a solitary adult male Blainville's beaked whale showing the high bottom jaw line and the erupted teeth. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Blainville's Beaked Whale

Blainville's beaked whales are little-known members of the beaked whale family, Ziphiidae. Sometimes known as the "dense-beaked whale," this species lives in tropical to temperate waters worldwide.

Blue whale swimming in the ocean. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Blue Whale

Blue whales are the largest animals ever to live on our planet. Blue whales are found in all ocean basins, except the Arctic Ocean. There are five currently recognized subspecies of blue whales.

Bowhead whale and calf. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Bowhead Whale

Bowhead whales are one of the few whale species that reside almost exclusively in Arctic and subarctic waters experiencing seasonal sea ice coverage, primarily between 60° and 75° north latitude. Of all large whales, the bowhead is the most adapted to life in icy water.

Bryde's whale swimming in the ocean. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Bryde's Whale

Bryde's (pronounced "broodus") whales are members of the baleen whale family. They are considered one of the "great whales," or rorquals.

A Cuvier's beaked whale cruises just under the surface after having taken a breath. NMFS MMPA Permit No.21938. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Richard Holt.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cuvier's beaked whales, sometimes called "goose-beaked whales," are members of the beaked whale family. They are one of the most frequently sighted species of beaked whales in the world.

drawing of a dwarf sperm whale

Dwarf Sperm Whale

The dwarf sperm whale is a toothed whale named after the waxy substance—spermaceti—found in its head. This organ is a sac of oil that helps the whales produce sound.

drawing of a False Killer whale

False Killer Whale

False killer whales are social animals found globally in all tropical and subtropical ocean basins and generally in deep offshore waters. The false killer whale's entire body is black or dark gray, although lighter areas may occur ventrally (on its underside) between the flippers or on the sides of the head.

Fin Whale swimming. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Fin Whale

The fin whale is the second-largest whale species on earth, second only to the blue whale. It is found throughout the world's ocean. It gets its name from an easy-to-spot fin on its back, near its tail.

Gervais' beaked whale. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Gervais' Beaked Whale

Gervais' beaked whales are little known members of the beaked whale family, Ziphiidae. Sometimes called the "Antillean" or "Gulf Stream beaked whale," this species prefers deep tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean but is occasionally found in colder temperate seas.

A gray whale and her calf migrate north along the California coast. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Gray Whale

Gray whales earned the nickname "devil fish" because of their aggressive reactions when harpooned.

Humpback whale breaching.

Humpback Whale

Humpback whales are a favorite of whale watchers―they are often active, jumping out of the water, and slapping the surface with their pectoral fins or tails.

Pod of killer whales. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Killer Whale

The killer whale, also known as orca, is the ocean's top predator. It is the largest member of the Delphinidae family, or dolphins.

Long-finned pilot whale with the top half of its body coming out of the water. Credit: Howard Goldstein, courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography/ UCSD and R/V Roger Revelle.

Long-Finned Pilot Whale

Long-finned pilot whales are very social, living in large schools of hundreds of animals separated into close-knit pods of 10 to 20 individuals.

Group of Longman's beaked whale swimming with their dorsal fins and puffy blows seen above the water.

Longman's Beaked Whale

Longman's beaked whales, sometimes known as "tropical bottlenose whales" or "Indo-Pacific beaked whales," are one of the rarest and least known members of the beaked whale family.

A group of three melon-headed whales swimming in the ocean with the center whale coming up out of the water.

Melon-Headed Whale

Melon-headed whales are a robust small whale found primarily in deep, tropical waters worldwide. They are social animals and often occur in groups of hundreds to over thousands of individuals.

drawing of a Minke Whale

Minke Whale

Minke whales are members of the baleen or "great" whale family and are the smallest of the rorquals.

drawing of a Narwhal


Narwhals are found in the Arctic Ocean. Generally male narwhals have a tooth that grows into a long clockwise-spiraled tusk, resembling a unicorn horn.

drawing of a Northern Bottlenose Whale

Northern Bottlenose Whale

Northern bottlenose whales are the largest members of the beaked whale family in the North Atlantic Ocean, where they prefer cold, deep, temperate to sub-arctic oceanic waters.

Pygmy killer whales.

Pygmy Killer Whale

Despite its common name, the pygmy killer whale is a small member of the oceanic dolphin family. They are often confused with false killer whales and melon-headed whale

drawing of a Pygmy Sperm Whale

Pygmy Sperm Whale

Pygmy sperm whales are toothed whales named after the waxy substance—spermaceti—found in their heads.

Surfacing Rice's whale.

Rice's Whale

Rice's whales are members of the baleen whale family Balaenopteridae. With likely fewer than 100 individuals remaining, Rice's whales are one of the most endangered whales in the world.

Sei whale mother and calf. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Sei Whale

Sei whales occur in subtropical, temperate, and subpolar waters around the world. Often found with pollock in Norway, the name "sei" comes from the Norwegian word for pollock, "seje."

Close-up shot of two short-finned pilot whales spy hopping out of the water to look at their surroundings.

Short-Finned Pilot Whale

Short-finned pilot whales are found globally in tropical and temperate ocean basins. They are one of two species of pilot whale, along with the long-finned pilot whale.

Front-view close-up of a Southern right whale coming out of the water with its tail visible in the background.

Southern Right Whales

The Southern right whale is found throughout the Southern Hemisphere.

Photo taken from behind showing a Sowerby's beaked whale peaking out of blue-green water.

Sowerby's Beaked Whale

Sowerby's beaked whales, sometimes known as the "North Atlantic beaked whale," are little known members of the beaked whale family, Ziphiidae.

Aerial view of six sperm whales grouped together in dark blue waters.

Sperm Whale

Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and have one of the widest global distributions of any marine mammal species.

drawing of a Stejneger's Beaked Whale

Stejneger's Beaked Whale

Stejneger's beaked whales, sometimes known as the "Bering Sea beaked whale" or "saber-toothed whale," are little known members of the beaked whale family (Ziphiidae).

drawing of a True's Beaked Whale

True's Beaked Whale

True's beaked whales are little known members of the beaked whale family, Ziphiidae. They can be found in deep, warm, temperate waters of the North Atlantic Ocean as well as at least two other areas in the Southern Hemisphere.