Bowhead Whale
(Balaena mysticetus)

Aerial View of Two Bowhead Whales Swimming.
Aerial View of Two Bowhead Whales Swimming. Photo courtesy of Dave Rugh, NOAA, National Marine Mammal Laboratory.
Two bowhead whales swimming away from the camera.
Two bowhead whales swimming away from the camera. Photo courtesy of Jill Schoenherr

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Bowhead whale moans recorded in the Arctic Ocean, off Point Barrow, Alaska.
©North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska.
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Bowhead whale song recorded (via sonobuoy) April 14, 2007, in Disko Bay, Greenland.
Sound credit: K.M. Stafford, University of Washington (released under Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs).
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Bowhead whale song recorded (via moored hydrophone) February 10, 2009, in the Fram Strait off northeastern Greenland.
Sound credit: K.M. Stafford, University of Washington (released under Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs).
Description
Bowhead whales are easily distinguished by their enormous head, white chin, and lack of dorsal fin. They have the longest baleen of the baleen whales, growing to more than 4 m (13 ft). Bowhead whales are found in five separate populations in the Arctic Ocean, migrating north and south with the seasonal movement of the edge of the pack ice. Bowhead whales produce a wide variety of vocalizations, ranging from moans at a constant frequency to calls made up of a series of pulses varying in intensity, frequency, duration, and interpulse interval. Most of their calls are simple moans within the 25-900 Hz range, but repetitive moan sequences have also been described as songs. Scientists use the bowhead vocalizations and visual sightings of animals to count the whales during their migration. They have found that estimates of the number of bowhead whales based on only sightings data or only acoustic data are too small. Only by combining the two types of data are scientists able to accurately monitor the bowhead whale populations .
 
References

  • Clark, C.W. and Johnson, J.H. 1984, "The sounds of the bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus, during the spring migrations of 1979 and 1980." Canadian Journal of Zoology 62: 1436-1441. 
  • Cummings, W.C. and Holliday, D.V. 1987, "Sounds and source levels from bowhead whales off Pt. Barrow, Alaska." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 82(3): 814-821. 
  • Ko, D., Zeh, J.E., Clark, C.W., Ellison, W.T., Krogman, B.D. and Sonntag, R. 1986, "Utilization of acoustic location data in determining a minimum number of spring-migrating bowhead whales unaccounted for by the ice-based visual census." Report of the International Whaling Commission 36: 325-338. 
  • Ljungblad, D.K., Thompson, P.O. and Moore, S.E. 1982, "Underwater sounds recorded from migrating bowhead whales, Balaena mysticetus, in 1979." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 71(2): 477-482. 
  • Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr., Malme, C.I. and Thomson, D.H. 1995, "Marine Mammals and Noise." San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 
  • Stafford, Kathleen, M., Sue E. Moore, Catherine L. Berchok, Oystein Wiig, Christian Lyderson, Edmond Hansen, Drik Kalmback, Kit M.Kovacs. 2012, "Spitsbergen's endangered bowhead whales sing through the polar night." Endangered Species Research. 18: 95-103. 
Additional Resources

  • "Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Bowhead Whale." (Link)
  • "American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet: Bowhead Whale." (Link)
  • "National Marine Mammal Laboratory: Bowhead Whales." (Link)
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, "Voices in the Sea." (Link)