Baird's Beaked Whale
Beaked whales are the least known of all cetaceans. Some have never been seen alive and have only been studied after dead animals were washed ashore. They may be rare or simply elusive but generally, they live in deep water far from land and have escaped live studies. Their most remarkable feature is the teeth.
The teeth erupt in both males and females. In older animals they may be worn down to gum level. The front pair of teeth are exposed even when the mouth is closed and often appear brilliant white against the dark body when in bright sunlight.
Baird's is probably the largest of all the beaked whales. It is similar in appearance to Arnoux's Beaked whale and some people say it is the same species. The two species are, however, geographically separated.
It has a long tube-like beak with a lower jaw protruding beyond the upper causing the front teeth to remain exposed when the mouth is closed. A second pair of teeth, smaller than the first, appear later in life but are concealed inside the mouth.
The Baird's Beaked whale is slate-grey in colour and may appear darker or brownish at sea. It has a paler underside with white blotches on the throat, between the flippers and around the naval and anus. It has a long, elongated, spindle-shaped body which may be extensively scarred. The forehead is bulging and in the male it is more bulbous than the female. The dorsal fin is small, low and slightly rounded at the tip. The flukes, which are sometimes raised above the surface before a dive, have straight trailing edges and a slight notch in the middle. The flippers are small, slightly rounded and are placed far forward on the body. The blowhole is crescent shaped, backward pointing and on top of the head.
Other Names: Northern Giant Bottlenose Whale, North Pacific Bottlenose Whale, Giant Four-toothed Whale, Northern Four-toothed Whale, North Pacific Four-toothed Whale.
Baird's populations are centered around the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific, Sea of Okhorsk, California, Vancouver Island, Japan and the Emperor Seamounts northwest of Hawaii. These areas, however, may simply be a reflection of observer activity and may be seasonal peaks in these areas. Populations may occur inshore, but usually near or seaward of continental shelf, especially around submarine escarpments and seamounts.
Small numbers of Baird's Beaked whales have been hunted off the Boso Peninsula, Japan, for several hundred years. Nowdays 40 to 60 animals are taken annually under a quota system.