Bowhead whale

The bowhead whale is the only baleen whale to spend its entire life in and around Arctic waters. The Alaskan population spends the winter months in the southwestern Bering Sea. The group migrates northward in the spring, following openings in the pack ice, into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. It is confirmed that their ranges had been changing largely depending on climate changes along with right whales.

The bowhead whale has a robust, dark-colored body, no dorsal fin and a strongly bowed lower jaw and narrow upper jaw. Its baleen, the longest of any whale at 3 m (9.8 ft), strains tiny prey from the water. The whale has a massive bony skull which it uses to break through the Arctic ice to breathe. Inuit hunters have reported them surfacing through 60 cm (24 in) of ice. The bowhead whale has paired blowholes that spout a blow 20 feet high.

Bowhead whale
  • Size

    The bowhead whale can grow to 20 m (66 ft) in length. This thick-bodied species can weigh 75 tonnes (74 long tons; 83 short tons) to 100 tonnes
    (98 long tons; 110 short tons).

    The newborn calf is about 4.5 m (15 ft) long and approximately 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), growing to 9 m (30 ft) by its first birthday.

  • Feeding

    Bowhead whale feeds by swimming forward with its mouth wide open, continuously filtering water through its baleen plates. Its mouth has a large upturning lip on the lower jaw that helps to reinforce and contain the baleen plates within its mouth, and prevents buckling or breakage of the plates due to the pressure of the water passing through them as it advances. They also feed on krill and copepods.

  • Life History

    Bowheads were once thought to live 60 to 70 years, similar to other whales. Sexual activity occurs between pairs and in boisterous groups of several males and one or two females. Breeding has been observed from March through August. Reproduction can begin when a whale is 10 to 15 years old. Females produce a calf once every three to four years, after a 13–14 month pregnancy.

  • Behavior

    The bowhead is a slow swimmer and usually travels alone or in small herds of up to six. Though it may remain submerged as long as 40 minutes in a single dive, it is not thought to be a deep diver.

    The bowhead whale is highly vocal, and uses underwater sounds to communicate while traveling, feeding, and socializing.