Identifying whales at sea

What you should note when identifying a whale

Some of the large whales can be identified by their blow, surfacing and diving characteristics. Use this chart as a quick reference guide to identify the large whales you see.

  • body length
  • presence of a dorsal fin
  • size and position of the dorsal fin
  • shape and size of flippers
  • shape of the head and general body shape
  • presence of a beak
  • shape of the blow
  • body colour and patterns
  • swimming characteristics
  • presence of teeth or baleen (stranded whale)
  • number of teeth (stranded whale)

how to identify whales graphic

Illustrations by Tony Pyrzakowski ©