Cuviers Beaked Whale

Scientific Name: Ziphius cavirostris
Other Names: Goose-Beaked Whale, Cuvier’s Whale, Goosebeak Whale

Although the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale is not often observed out at sea, it seems to be one of the most abundant and widely distributed of all of the beaked whales. Because it is not often seen within its natural habitat, though, what is known about it has been gleaned based on strandings.

It is sometimes known as the Goosebeak or Goose-Beaked Whale for the shape of its head and indistinct beak, which resemble a goose in profile. It also has two small teeth right at the front of the lower jaw, which jut out when the mouth is closed. These are often covered in barnacles

Image of Cuviers Beaked Whale

Drawing of a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.
By Bardrock – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale come up for a breath of air.

Physical Characteristics

The colouration of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale varies enormously. They range from tan and pale brown to cream, blue-grey or even black-red. They typically have swirling patterns and long scarring on the sides of their stout bodies. On their undersides, one will often find white or cream circular scars and marks. These frequently extend to the top of the fluke (tail fin) as well. As males age, they get a white patch that extends from about the centre of its upper body to its snout.

Its entire head is small and its mouth-line upturned, giving the impression that it is constantly smirking.

The small dorsal fin is situated about two-thirds of the way down the body, closer to the fluke. Some dorsal fins are tall and hooked, while others can be almost triangular in shape. The pectoral flippers are small, while the flukes are rather broad. The tail fins, or flukes, may have a small notch in the centre and have concave trailing edges.

There is a marked indentation behind the blowhole.

Adults grow to between 5.5 and seven metres in length (18 to 23 feet) and reach about two to three tonnes.

This curious whale will occasionally summon the courage to investigate a boat, but is otherwise rather shy.

Before a dive, the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale will make between two and three blows, 10 to 20 seconds apart. Then, it will dip below the water’s surface and stay there for between 20 and 40 minutes. Before a dive, it arches its back, often lifting the fluke out of the water.

Sometimes, it will expose the top of its head while coursing through the water at an impressive speed.

The Cuvier’s Beaked Whale travels alone in the case of being an aged male, but is more commonly known for sticking to pods of about two to 10 individuals. This may increase to up to 25 individuals in some cases.

Where to Find Them
The Cuvier’s Beaked Whale has a global distribution in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters (that is, far away from the icy poles). It is often found in inland waters, like the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of California and the Caribbean.

This whale species feeds mainly on squid, as well as the fish that occur naturally in its deep-water home.

There are no specific known threats to the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale. Of course, whaling always presents a danger to any of these cetaceans. Interestingly, it also appears that this whale is particularly sensitive to noise. Far more stranding incidents have occurred after noisy naval operations, for example.

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