Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Goose-beaked whale, Goosebeak whale

Ziphius cavirostris
Population size
Life Span
40 years
t lbs 
m ft 

The Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) is the most widely distributed of all beaked whales in the family Ziphiidae. It is smaller than most baleen whales yet large among beaked whales. Cuvier's beaked whale is pelagic and occurs in waters that are deeper than 1,000 feet (300 m). It has the deepest and longest recorded dives among whales, though the frequency and reasons for these extraordinary dives are unclear. Despite its deep water habitat, it is one of the most frequently spotted beached whales.


















Not a migrant


starts with


The body of Cuvier's beaked whale is robust and cigar-shaped, similar to those of other beaked whales, and can be difficult to distinguish from many of the mesoplodont whales at sea. Males and females tend to be similar in size. The body of adult males is typically a dark gray, with their head being distinctly lighter, or even white. This light coloration extends along the posterior. Females vary in color from dark gray to reddish-brown. The skin lightens on a female's head to a lesser extent than in males and does not extend along the posterior. Adult males show a contrasted uniform white cape which usually extends to the dorsal fin zone. Individual coloration in adult males varies from dark to almost white. However, more than a third of adult females show "sharp" pigmentation patterns similar to adult males. Therefore males and females of this pattern cannot be distinguished using the pigmentation pattern alone. The majority of adult females show a “soft” cluster of pigmentation features characterized by a brownish coloration and a shorter contrasting white cape. However, similar patterns have been observed in subadult animals of both sexes, so a "soft" pigmentation pattern alone is insufficient evidence to conclude that an animal is female. Cuvier's beaked whale is an odontocete - or toothed whale. Erupted teeth are only present in adult males. Males also develop two tusks in the right and left corners of their lower jaw. The tusks are possibly used for dueling between the males, though it has not been observed, but may also be used for fighting off threats such as orcas. Adults have many scars along their sides which can be used to identify individuals. The scars are thought, by researchers, to be from battles with males, predators, fights with squid, or cookiecutter sharks, which may score them or punch holes directly in their sides. The frequency of scarring is higher in males than in females and tends to increase with age.





The species occurs throughout the world, inhabiting temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters of most of the world's seas and oceans. Cuvier's beaked whales live in the open sea, normally greater than 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) of the continental slope and edge. They can be found around banks, seamounts, and submarine canyons. A scientific survey has shown that these animals also frequent currents, current boundaries, and core ring features. Currently, there is no information about the migration habits and seasonality of this whale. According to the recently conducted genetic diversity studies, the animals normally remain within the basin of their 'home' ocean.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale habitat map

Climate zones

Cuvier's Beaked Whale habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

These whales usually occur in groups of 2-7 animals, though some animals, mostly males, can be found alone. Cuvier's beaked whales do not tend to show active behavior such as breaching when they are at the surface. The blow of this animal is hardly seen; it occurs with intervals of 20-30 seconds, pointing to the left and a bit forward while reaching 3 feet (1 meter) in length. When the whale swims, the body and the head of the animal emerge from the water. In order to feed, this deep diver is able to dive more than 3.300 feet (1.000 meters), remaining submerged for up to 85 minutes per time. Before a deep, vertical dive, Cuvier's beaked whale arches its back more than usual, showing its flukes. Hunting in the lightless depths, the animal uses echolocation to detect potential prey.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Cuvier's beaked whales are carnivores (molluscivores). Their diet primarily consists of squid, supplemented with fish and occasional crustaceans.

Mating Habits

year-round, peak during the spring
1 year
1 calf

Presently, quite little is known about the reproductive behavior of these whales, since the animals are rarely seen at sea. They are likely to breed and give birth throughout the year with a peak period, occurring in spring. Females give birth at an interval of 2-3 years. The gestation period lasts for a year, yielding a single calf. Males become reproductively mature when they are 18-20 feet (5.5-6.1 m) long, whereas females - 20 feet (6.1 m) in length, which corresponds the age of 7-11 years.


Population threats

Along with other whale species, these animals are threatened by a number of factors, including global climate change as well as heavy metal and pollution intoxication. Cuvier’s beaked whales are incidentally caught in fishing gear. At this point, there have been known 41 cases of mass strandings of these whales, which are, probably, only a small part of all dead animals, considering that those dying in the offshore waters are hardly washed ashore. Meanwhile, some of these mass strandings occurred simultaneously with naval manoeuvres, which included the use of active sonar, which leads to the conclusion that some sonar sounds can be dangerous or fatal for Cuvier’s beaked whales.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the global population size of the Cuvier’s beaked whale is likely to be well over 100,000 individuals, including estimated populations in the following areas: in the eastern tropical Pacific - 80,000 whales; off the U.S. west coast - 1,884 whales; in Hawaiian waters - 15,242 whales. Currently, Cuvier’s beaked whales are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Their head is short and blunt, with a gradually sloping forehead, a small, poorly defined beak, and a slight melon. All the beaked whales have this general appearance, but Cuvier's beaked whale has a blunt shorter beak that distinguishes it from others in the family Ziphiidae. In profile, their small, softly defined rostrum gives them the nickname or alternative name of Goose-beaked whale.
  • As common in beaked whale species, Cuvier's beaked whale is a timid animal that typically avoids research vessels and other ships.
  • Cuvier's beaked whale has the most widespread range and distribution of all whale species in the world.
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale is also the deepest diving mammal in the world, able to dive at a depth of approximately 10,000 feet (3, 048 meters). Moreover, a study, conducted in 2014, has shown that this animal is the longest-known mammal to hold its breath underwater.
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale is able to remain submerged for up to 90 minutes, though, according to some scientific studies, the animal can dive for as long as two hours.
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale usually sleeps at the top of the water so that the blowhole of the animal is above the sea surface. From time to time, the animal comes to the water's surface, quickly blowing air out of the special blowhole; releasing air makes a stream of watery mist known as a "blow".

Coloring Pages


1. Cuvier's Beaked Whale Wikipedia article -
2. Cuvier's Beaked Whale on The IUCN Red List site -

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