Species

This section provides comprehensive facts on the 24 cetacean species recorded to date in Irish waters. These species have either been observed alive or have stranded along the Irish coast. Please select the name of the whale or dolphin species you are searching for to find details on their: identification, biology, feeding ecology, conservation status & distribution and where and when they can be found in Ireland.

Northern Right Whale

Northern right whales were named so due to their reputation for being the 'right' whale to hunt. They were once quite common in coastal waters, were slow moving, approachable, d...

Humpback Whale

The humpback whales' scientific name, Megaptera means "giant wings" referring to their large pectoral fins which can reach up to 4.5m long.  Classification ...

Fin Whale

The fin whale is the second largest living animal on earth - the largest being the blue whale. Known as the "Greyhound of the sea", the fin whale is one of the fastest recorded mammals in th...

Minke Whale

Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales reaching a maximum length of around 10m. Classification Class: Mammalia Order: Cetacea Suborder: Mysticeti Family: Balaenopteridae Gen...

Blue Whale

Blue whales are the largest mammal on planet Earth capable of reaching lengths of up to 33m. Classification Class: Mammalia Order: Cetacea Suborder: Mysticeti Family: Balaenopterida...

Sei Whale

This is a slender cetacean, although more robust than the fin whale. The dorsal fin is well defined and slightly hooked and is located about two-thirds back along the body. The head and jaws are r...

Sperm Whale

Long, blunt head first to appear above surface, often at an angle, to expose blowhole. Head is highly asymmetrical and the single nostril is situated well to the left of the midline, producing a f...

Pygmy Sperm Whale

At sea, pygmy sperm whales are likely to be confused with only the beaked whales, which have small dorsal fins or dwarf sperm whales (Kogia simus) which do not occur in the NE Atlantic. They are d...

Northern Bottlenose Whale

The Northern bottlenose whale is the only beaked whale in the North Atlantic with a large bulging melon, and should be easy to identify. They occasionally raise their tail flukes when diving;...

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

The dorsal fin is often the first feature seen at sea and is set far back on the body. The head is usually small and pale, visible only when sighted close up when the animal is surfacing from a de...

Sowerby's Beaked Whale

Give the impression of being sleeker or more streamlined than many of the beaked whales. Adult males have a single, triangular tooth that juts up a little over half-way along each side of the lowe...

True's Beaked Whale

Without a good view of the head, they are extremely difficult to identify at sea. Their tail flukes are generally not visible even when the animal is diving. They are shy of shipping and boats. Th...

Beluga Whale

The Beluga whale is normally a slow swimmer, spending much time at the surface and moving in an undulating motion. The dive sequence typically consists of 5-6 shallow dives in a minute, followed b...

Long-finned Pilot Whale

Pilot whales, despite their name are the second largest member of the dolphin family and are relatively easy to identify at sea. In field conditions and in any light, they appear jet black or dark...

Killer Whale

Too small to be one of the larger whales and too big to be a smaller dolphin species, killer whales are among the easiest species to identify. If the group (pod) has an adult male, which they...

False Killer Whale

The false killer whale is smaller than the killer whale and larger than other dolphin species. They have a streamlined body, small head with a large rounded beak. They have a dark coloration and a...

Gervais' Beaked Whale

The flippers are very low down on the body, are quite narrow and sit into depressions (pockets) on the body wall. The triangular teeth, near the tip of the lower jaws, are diagnostic in adult male...

Risso's Dolphin

The blunt forehead, lack of a distinct beak, pale body colouring and extensive body scarring are characteristics that should be looked for. The tall dorsal fin may lead to confusion with Killer Wh...

Harbour Porpoise

The harbour porpoise is the smallest cetacean in Irish waters and our only porpoise species. Classification Class: Mammalia Order: Cetacea Suborder: Odontoceti Family: Pho...

Bottlenose Dolphin

Classification Class: Mammalia Order: Cetacea Suborder: Odontoceti Family: Delphinidae Genus: Tursiops Species: truncatus Common names: bottlenose dolphin Irish Name: An deilf bholgshr&oacut...

White-beaked Dolphin

The white-beak on the dolphin is diagnostic for this species; otherwise the pale saddle behind the dorsal fin and the two white patches on the flanks to the front and rear of the dorsal fin are ch...

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin

A prominent dorsal fin, narrow white patch on flanks, yellow or tan streak above white patch along each side, behind dorsal fin and extending up toward ridge of tail.   Species Similar in...

Common Dolphin

The most useful field identification features of the short-beaked common dolphin are the yellowish/ochre patches on the sides in front of the dorsal fin and the V formed by the intersection of the...

Striped Dolphin

The striped dolphin has a streamlined body, with a long slender beak and a black stripe from the eye to the flipper. They have dark flippers, tail and fin. The striped dolphin is a fast active swi...