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Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Fin and back

Fin and back

Surfacing and breahting

Surfacing and breahting

Map of distrubution

Map of distrubution


Scientific name: Ziphius cavirostris. 
Order:  Artiodactyla.
Family: Ziphiidea.
Genus: Ziphius.

IUCN Status

Least concerned.

Other names

Goose beaked whale.


A medium sized whale, they can grow between 5.5 meters to 7 meters. Cuvier’s beaked whales are normally brown, and they get lighter with age, and the males often have scars from fighting. They have a conned shaped head, a gentility sloping forehead, and a short stubby beak. Behind the blow hole, there are some indentions, and their blow is low and bushy. The skin around their eyes is black, causing them to look panda like. Their dorsal fin is set about 2/3 of the way back of the body.

Habitat and distribution

Cuvier’s beaked whales live in temperate waters to tropical waters and live to live in waters up to 200 meters deep. They have been sighted in southern Biscay, often close to canyon edges and on continental shelf slopes.


Cuvier’s beaked whales are seen in groups of 2 to 7 individuals but have been seen in groups of up to 25. When they come to the surface, they often remain motionless, but can dive for 20 to 40 minutes. Their low is low and busy and sometimes not seen.

Confusion with other species

  • Minke whale - this is only slightly larger than the Cuvier's Beaked whale, but it it is blackish and lacks any coloration on the frontal upper parts of it. 

  • Northern Bottlenose whale - this is slightly larger and has similar colourings, however they mostly surface with a lunge that reveals the domed melon (forehead) and can create a bow wave.


In the past, they were captured by whaling ships in Japan but only on a small scale. Cuvier’s beaked whales are now threatened by entanglement into discarded fishing gear, noise pollution from large ships which can cause stress and has often led to them beaching themselves, and often being injured when they are struck by boats.

Interesting facts

Cuvier's beaked whales have flipper pockets, so they can tuck their flippers in to make them more streamlined.

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