Right Whale (Balaena glacialis, Balaena australis)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Family:    Balaenidae
Size:    Length: 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 m)
Weight: Up to 94 tons (95,000 kg)
Diet: Krill and other small crustaceans
Distribution: North Atlantic Ocean and the coastal waters of South America, Australia and New Zealand
Young:  1 calf every 3 to 5 years
Animal Predators:  Killer whale
IUCN Status: Endangered
Terms: Young: Calf   Male: Bull   Female: Cow   Group: Pod
Lifespan: Approximately 30 years



·         Right whales have a “horny bonnet” on their heads, created by the lice and barnacles that attach themselves there.

·         Right whales are slow swimmers and can exceed 12 kilometres (7.4 miles) per hour, but only in short bursts.

·         Right whales were so named because they were considered the “right” whales to hunt due to their value from their oil and baleen. 



Right whales are rotund, dark whales with light belly patches. They are either dark grey, dark brown or black. They have yellowish lumps on their heads called callosities, which are inhabited by parasites known as whale lice. Right whales do not have a dorsal fin. Rather than teeth, right whales have baleen, which are rows of bristly plates that resemble a comb. Baleen is made of keratin, is a flexible material also found in fingernails and hooves. Also called whalebone, it was used in previous centuries to make corset stays and umbrella ribs. 



Right whales are found in several different areas around the world. Northern right whales (Balaena glacialis) inhabit the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, while Southern right whales (Balaena australis) can be found around the tip of South America, as well as the coastal waters of South Africa, southwestern Australia, and New Zealand. 


Feeding Habits

When right whales eat, they feed by opening their large mouth under the water and swimming through large schools of krill and other small crustaceans. They then close their mouth around their prey, straining water out through bristly baleen plates that resemble a comb, to filter out the food. 



Right whales migrate to warmer temperatures during the winter season, where they mate and give birth. Because numbers are so low, not much information is available about their breeding habits or the raising of young, but it is believed that females undergo a pregnancy lasting from 11 to 14 months. Newborns are 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 m) long and nurse for 6 to 12 months, during which time they double their body size. Young right whales are blue in colour. 



Right whales dwell on the surface. They are usually seen in pairs or in small groups of up to a dozen. They interact peacefully with dolphins and most other smaller cetaceans. Right whales usually make five or six shallow dives and then submerge for 15 to 20 minutes.



Right whales were hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th century. Despite protection by international agreement since 1946 when the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling, populations in the North Pacific and North Atlantic are still dangerously low, at only several hundred whales. Within Canada’s 200-mile fishing zone, all whales are protected under The Canadian Whaling Regulations.









Right Whale Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US