The beluga whale is a kind of whale with a big head that lives in the ocean. In this lesson, you will learn about beluga whales, how they survive in the cold, special characteristics and features of these animals and their eating habits.

What Is a Beluga Whale?

Imagine diving deep into very cold ocean water. You hear what sounds like the tweets and whistles of a bird, and you look around to see several large, white animals with big, plump foreheads swimming nearby. They’re as curious about you as you are about them. You are swimming with beluga whales!

Beluga whale with a large, round forehead
Beluga Whale with a Large, Round Forehead

A beluga whale is a white whale that has teeth, a large, round forehead (called a melon) and a bendable neck, and it lives in Arctic and subarctic ocean water. Though they may look big to you, beluga whales are small compared to other whales–belugas are usually only between 13 and 20 feet long.

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Surviving in the Cold

In the wild, beluga whales can be found off the coasts of several Arctic and subarctic countries, including Russia, Canada and the United States. They are also found in aquariums around the world.

Beluga whale in the ocean
Beluga Whale in Cold Ocean Water

These whales are well prepared for the cold water. They have 5 inches of fat, called blubber, on their bodies to keep them warm. Imagine wearing a 5-inch-thick coat everywhere you went! They also have no dorsal fins, which are the fins found on the backs of sharks. Instead, they have much smaller dorsal ridges (which look a lot like knuckles when you close your fist), making it is easier for them to swim under the ice.

Beluga Whale Characteristics and Features

These whales are very talkative and communicate with each other using high-pitched noises, much like the sounds of birds. They like to be around each other and live in small groupings called pods.

Beluga whale in an aquarium
Beluga Whale in an Aquarium

Beluga whales are unique in that they can swim backwards if they want to, which is something most whales can’t do! Another thing most whales can’t do is bend their necks and move their heads all around. Beluga whales have neck bones that aren’t joined together, so their necks are very elastic.

Though they breathe air, they can stay under the water for about 25 minutes and can dive almost half a mile under the water!

What Do Beluga Whales Eat?

Beluga whales are carnivores, which means they eat meat. They enjoy meals of fish, worms, clams, shrimp and octopuses.

Though humans can’t use their forehead to find food, beluga whales can! The whale sends out sound waves into the water, and those sound waves bounce off food and other objects ans return to the whale. The beluga than uses its large, round forehead (its melon) to read those sound waves and locate the food. This process is known as echolocation.

Lesson Summary

A beluga whale is a white whale that has teeth, a large, round forehead and a bendable neck, and it lives in Arctic and subarctic regions. These whales are very talkative, enjoy being around each other and live in pods. Beluga whales are carnivores, which means they eat meat, and they use echolocation to find their meals.