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Home / News / General / Hawaii’s cetaceans

Hawaii’s cetaceans

By: Denver Leaman

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
Suborder: Mysticeti Family: Ziphiidae
Occurs in Hawaiian waters.

Other known names:

Goose-beaked whale, Goose-beak whale, Cuvier's whale.

Identity keys to use in the field:

Long, Robust body, Goose-beak head shape, Very short beak, Teeth visible in middle of beak, Single blowhole, Short stubby flippers, Pale blotches, Broad flukes, Normally in small groups or alone.

General description and habits:

Cuvier's beaked whales appear to be one of the most abundant of the beaked whale family. Their foreheads slope gently to a slight beak that becomes less obvious with age. They have two teeth that are just visible when the mouth is closed. Their color varies from black to brown with white or cream colored blotches and circular scars on the underside and sides. Older males have extensive white areas from the beak to the top center of the body. They have long, robust bodies with dorsal fins that vary from triangular to sickle-shaped. Their flukes are broad, being up to one quarter of their body length with no middle notch. Adult Cuvier's beaked whales are between 5.5 and 7 meters (6ft 6in - 9ft 9in) long. When they are born, they are 2 or 3 meters long. Adults weigh between 2 and 3 tonnes. When they are born, they weigh approximately 250 kg (550lb). Cuvier's beaked whales tend to travel alone (especially older males) or in groups of about 10. They are not acrobatic animals although they have been observed breaching. Their blow is not noticeable unless they have just completed a long dive. Their dives usually last from 20 to 40 minutes. They lurch through the water with their heads above the surface and arch their backs steeply before deep dives when they may lift their flukes above the surface. Of the beaked whale family Cuvier's is the most likely to be found stranded.


Fish and squid.


Distribution is mainly known through a large number of strandings. They have a wide range in tropical to cold temperate waters from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are not found in polar regions. They are rarely found close to the mainland, preferring deep offshore waters.

Population estimates:


Hawaii’s cetaceans
  • Humpback whales
  • Striped Dolphin
  • Spinner Dolphin
  • Baird’s Beaked Whale
  • Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Blainville's Beaked Whale
  • Bryde's Whale
  • Cuvier's Beaked Whale
  • Dwarf Sperm Whale
  • False Killer Whale
  • Fin Whale
  • Killer Whale
  • Melon-headed Whale
  • Minke Whale
  • Northern Right Whale
  • Pygmy Killer Whale
  • Pygmy Sperm Whale
  • Risso's Dolphin
  • Rough-toothed Dolphin
  • Short-finned Pilot Whale
  • Sperm Whale
  • Spotted Dolphin



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