Baird's beaked whale

Berardius bairdii
Other names: 
  • Northern four-toothed whale
  • Giant bottle-nosed whale
  • North Pacific bottlenose whale
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 10.7m
  • Female: 11.1m
  • Calf: 4.6m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: Unknown
  • Female: 12,000kg
  • Calf: Unknown
  • Gadiform fish
  • Squid and crustaceans
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 

There has been much speculation as to whether or not Baird's beaked whale and Arnoux's beaked whale are in fact the same species. Genetic analysis has shown them to be genetically isolated and distinct from each other. A recent study proposes the existence of a new -still unnamed- species of Berardius in the North Pacific based on genetic and morphometric data. The Baird's beaked whale is the largest of the beaked whales and the size differences between sexes is thought to be minimal. Although some information is known about this migratory species' movements, it is still unclear where these animals go in the winter months.


Baird's beaked whale has a large but slender body with a distinct, bulbous melon which may become whitish with age. The beak is long and the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw and contains two pairs of teeth which, unusually for beaked whales, erupt in both males and females. The front pair of teeth may be visible when the mouth is closed and may be encrusted in barnacles in older individuals. As with all other beaked whales, a pair of throat grooves are also present. The flippers are small and slightly rounded, set forward on the body, and fit into small depressions on the body when the animal is diving. The dorsal fin is set well back on the body, small and triangular, and usually curved under at the tip. The body is a brownish grey colour and in older individuals may be heavily scarred as a result of interactions with conspecifics. The Baird's beaked whale may be confused with several other beaked whales that share its range however they may be discerned from other species by their large size, colouration and head and dorsal fin differences.


Baird's beaked whales are an extremely long-lived species with males living longer than females. They are known to form close groups of between 5 and 20 individuals but at times have been seen in groups of up to 50 animals. Seen swimming in tight formation, surfacing, breathing and occasionally even breaching in unison, these animals are highly social. They may be approachable by boats, can be curious and are known to spyhop and lobtail. A deep-diving species (800 – 1,200m), they feed on squid and pelagic and deep-sea fish and prefer deep waters near the continental shelf or on and around seamounts. Our Russian Cetacean Habitat Project has found an ideal land-based lookout on Bering Island close to deep water which provides a rare location to see Baird’s beaked whales.


The range of Baird's beaked whale is the North Pacific Ocean and the Japan, Bering and Okhotsk Seas. Baird's beaked whales are one of the few species of beaked whales that were, and still are hunted commercially, hence directed takes remain the major threat to this species. Other threats include entanglement in fishing gear, noise pollution, and climate change. In the western Pacific Ocean three sub-populations are currently recognised; Sea of Japan, Okhotsk Sea and Pacific Ocean with a cumulative population abundance of approx. 7,000 individuals. An additional estimate of approximately 1,100 individuals are known to inhabit the north-eastern Pacific Ocean. The IUCN Red List categorises this species as Data Deficient.

Distribution map: