pothead whale

Long-finned Pilot Whale

The Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) is one of the two species of cetacean in the genus Globicephala. It belongs to the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae), though its behaviour is closer to that of the larger whales.

Like the orca, the Long-finned Pilot Whale is actually a dolphin. It is jet black or dark grey with a grey or white diagonal stripe behind each eye, and a large, round forehead (melon). It is sometimes known as the pothead whale because the shape of its head reminded early whalers of black cooking pots.

Field ID: Stocky body, bulbous melon, single blowhole, 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.

Weight: Adult: 1.8 - 3.5 tonnes. Birthweight: 75kg.

Diet: Squid and sometimes fish


They are very social, family animals and may travel in groups of up to a hundred, 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 tends 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 take several breaths before diving for a few minutes. Feeding dives, when they are looking for squid or fish, may last over ten minutes. They are capable of diving to depths of 600 metres, but most dives are to a depth of 30-60 metres.


  • WDCS (Danish)

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