Berardius bairdii

Stejneger, 1883 - Baird's beaked whale

Distinctive Characteristics

Baird's beaked whales are the largest whales in the ziphiid family. They have a long, well-defined, tube-like beak and a rounded forehead (rising at a shallower angle than in bottlenose whales, Hyperoodon spp.). The body is relatively more slender than in bottlenose whales. The small, but prominent, triangular dorsal fin is about two-thirds of the way along the back and is rounded at the tip. There is the usual V-shaped pair of throat grooves characteristic of beaked whales. Though some animals have a median notch on the flukes, most have no notch (and some even have a bulge).

Baird's beaked whales are dark brownish grey, usually heavily scarred with light scratches or splotches on the back and, often, on the undersides.

There are 2 pairs of teeth near the tip of the lower jaw. The forward pair of teeth in adults is visible at the tip of the protruding lower jaw, even when the mouth is closed. On some individuals, these teeth are heavily infested with barnacles.

The conspicuous blow is low and rounded, and is often given in rapid succession.

Can be confused with

Several of the other beaked whales (Cuvier's beaked whale and some species of Mesoplodon) are found within the Baird's beaked whale's range, but the larger adult size and unique head and dorsal fin of the latter species should make them identifiable. Minke whales could, in some circumstances, be confused with Baird's beaked whales; when a good look is obtained, differences in dorsal-fin shape, head shape, and coloration make the 2 easily distinguishable.


Baird's beaked whales reach lengths of 11.9 m (males) and 12.8 m (females), and weights of up to 12,000 kg. They are about 4.5 m long at birth.

Geographical Distribution

Baird's beaked whales are found in deep oceanic waters of the North Pacific Ocean and the Japan, Okhotsk, and Bering seas. Their range extends to the southern Gulf of California in the eastern Pacific, and to the island of Honshu, Japan, in the western Pacific. Though they may be seen close to shore where deep water approaches the coast, their primary habitats appear to be over or near the continental slope and oceanic seamounts.

Biology and Behaviour

Baird's beaked whales live in pods of 5 to 20 whales, although groups of up to 50 are occasionally seen. They often assemble in tight groups drifting along at the surface. At such times, snouts are often seen as animals slide over one another's backs. They are deep divers, capable of staying down for over an hour. From Japanese whaling data, it appears that males live longer than females and that females have no post-reproductive stage. There is a calving peak in March and April.

Baird's beaked whales feed mainly on deepwater and bottom-dwelling fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans.


Until the 1960s and 1970s, Baird's beaked whales in the eastern North Pacific were taken only by United States and Canadian whalers (in relatively small numbers). In the western North Pacific, there has been heavier exploitation by the Soviets and Japanese. Japan's coastal whaling stations continue to take up to 40 Baird's beaked whales per year. Some Baird's beaked whales have been caught in Japanese salmon driftnets.

IUCN Status

Insufficiently known.