Quick and Easy Whale Identification Key

Quick and Easy Whale Identification Key

Larger members of the Dolphin family (6-9 m)


Long finned Pilot whaleLong Finned Pilot Whales
(Globicephala melas)
 Characteristics:
  • Up to 6.5 meters
  • All black except for “anchor-shaped” white pattern on stomach
  • Round, high forhead (melon)
  • Hooked dorsal fin, wide at base in males
  • Long tail (2/3 of body length) with grey saddle patch
  • Long boomerang-shaped pectoral fins
  • Sometimes seen mixed with bottlenose dolphins 
  • Commonly strands on beaches in New Zealand
Killer WhaleKiller Whale
(Orcinus orca)
Characteristics:
  • Distinct black and white pattern, white patch around eye
  • Adult males have 2m tall, triangular dorsal fins
  • Grey saddle patch behind dorsal fin

Whales (12-18 m)


Southern Right WhaleSouthern Right Whale
(Eubalaena australis)
Characteristics:
  • No dorsal fin or ridge
  • Whitish callouses (callosities) on snout, chin, blowhole
  • Callosities infested with parasites and barnacles
  • Slow swimmer
  • Arched jaw, teeth absent, baleen
Humpback WhaleHumpback Whale
(Megaptera novaeangliae)
Characteristics:
  • Small dorsal fin far on back with hump in front
  • Knobs or bumps on head, jaws, flippers
  • Pectoral fins long and white
  • Folds or pleats under chin
  • Underside of tail has white pattern
  • No teeth, baleen plates
Sperm WhaleSperm Whale
(Physeter macrocephalus)
Characteristics:
  • Blowhole on left side of head
  • Large, squarish head, 1/3 of body
  • Skin “wrinkled”
  • Black, may have white lips
  • Narrow underslung lower jaw
  • Teeth only in lower jaw
  • Usually seen resting at surface
If you make a sighting we will appreciate you making a report here