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Long Finned Pilot Whale

Offshore waters. Also inshore and bays in the summer.

From Iceland and Greenland to North Carolina.

Like orcas, the long-finned pilot whale is not really a whale but actually a dolphin. It is jet black or dark grey with a grey or white diagonal stripe behind each eye, and a big round forehead (melon). They are sometimes known as the pothead whale because the shape of their head reminded early whalers of black cooking pots!

Field ID:
Stocky body, Bulbous melon , Single blowhole, Very long black flippers, Black or dark grey colour, Backward-leaning fin, Fin set forward on body, Frequently lobtails and spyhops, Prefers deep water.

Length (metres):
Male: 4 – 7.6m. Female: 3 – 5.6m. Newborn: 1.8 – 2m.

Adult: 1.8 – 3.5 tonnes. Birthweight: 75kg.

Squid and sometimes fish

They are very social, family animals and may travel in groups of up to 100 with one animal acting as leader. Long-finned pilot whales often strand themselves on beaches – because they have strong family bonds, when one animal strands the rest of the pod tend to follow.
They are very active and can often be seen lobtailing and spyhopping. The younger ones also breach but this is rare in adults.
Pilot whales generally takes several breaths before diving for a few minutes. Feeding dives, when they are looking for squid or fish, may last for 10 minutes or more.
They are capable of diving to depths of 600m but most dives are 30 – 60m.

Fascinating Facts:
There are stories of pilot whales helping to rescue sailors trapped in crippled submarines! Males are known to live for up to 46 years and females up to 60.