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White Beaked Dolphin

(Lagenorhynchus albirostris)

Short Description

The White-Beaked Dolphin ranges further north into the sub-arctic waters and is the most northerly occurring of all dolphins. It thus has the thickest blubber layer of all the dolphins and is the hardiest of the “lag” dolphins as they are commonly referred to.

This dolphin is a popular sighted dolphin on tours in the North Atlantic, and despite it's name, does not always have a white beak, but can have colouring from white, grey through to black.

Long Description

The white-beaked dolphin is a sturdy, robust-bodied animal that can reach 3.1 metres in length and weigh up to 350 kg when fully grown.

The dark grey dorsal fin is tall and curved and the beak is short and often, but not always, entirely white. Colouration is a mix of dark grey back, tail and pectoral fins, with greyish-white flashes along the flanks and a pale grey patch behind the dorsal fin (known as the saddle-patch).
The tail stock is quite thick.

They have a varied diet of fish, ranging from small schooling fish such herring to larger bottom-dwelling fish including cod, whiting and haddock. They are also known to eat molluscs, squid, octopus and some crustaceans. These dolphins will work together when feeding using whistles, tail slaps and leaps to coordinate their hunt, and they may also associate with feeding minke whales and humpback whales.

Social Groups and Activity:
These dolphins are fast, powerful swimmers that are attracted to boats in order to bow ride, probably as a fun activity. They are quite acrobatic and frequently ‘porpoise’ (jump clear of the water) when travelling at speed. These dolphins are usually seen in small groups of five to 50 animals but occasionally form larger groups of several hundred individuals.


The White-Beaked Dolphin is only found in the temperate and sub-arctic waters of the North Atlantic. In the Hebrides, they are usually seen in open waters further from the coast, and seem to favour the northern Hebrides. 
One of the major threats to white-beaked dolphins is incidental capture and drowning in gillnet, driftnet and trawl fisheries. Rising sea temperatures caused by climate change may affect the future distribution of white-beaked dolphins since the UK shores represent the southern limit of their distribution. In additionthey are also affected by marine pollution, habitat degradation and disturbance caused by boating activities. They are protected under UK and EU Laws.

Distribution Map

White Beaked Dolphin  Distribution Map

Photo Hanna Beker

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