Bryde’s Whale

Balaenoptera edeni

Named after a Norwegian whaler, Bryde’s (pronounced ‘broodess’) whale has a slender, streamlined body very similar to that of a sei whale. Eden’s whale head is more V-shaped compared to the Bryde’s whale. Both are longitudinally ridged from the tip of the rostrum to the double blowholes. However, in Bryde’s whale this central ridge is flanked by an additional ridge, 1-2cm thick, on either side, whereas in Eden’s whale it is flanked by two additional ridges on either side (see slide show below). The central ridge is most prominent; the other two or four may be indistinct. A set of  0-70 throat pleats runs from the tip of the chin to aft of the navel.

Key CharacteristicBrydes Whale

  • Three ridges on head
  • Prominent falcate dorsal fin
  • Skin may be mottled
  • Bluish-grey upper side
  • Thin, hazy blow 3-4m high
  • May arch tail stock on diving
  • Flukes rarely seen above the surface
  • Irregular dive sequence
  • May approach boats

Dorsal Fin: prominently located about two-thirds along the back from the head to the notch in the flukes. Bryde’s whale dorsal fin is erect and falcate. The trailing edge may be frayed or tattered. Eden’s whale dorsal fin is taller, more pointed at the tip and markedly curved on the rear edge similar to the minke whale.

Flippers: relatively short (about ten percent of body length), pointed at the tips.

Flukes: relatively small in relation to body size. The trailing edge is slightly concave and has a distinct median notch.

Baleen Plates: between 250 and 360 on either side of the mouth, length 40-48 cm. The plates are black on the outside with a very fine, stiff, silky white fringe. Some plates at the front of the mouth are white.

Colouration: dark, smoky blue-grey body with cream or blue-grey underside. Lighter mottling and scars may be present. The flukes may also be lighter on the ventral side. Flippers are dark on both sides. Throat pleats are yellowish or white.

Behaviour: Bryde’s whales cruise at between 1.9 and 6.5km/h (1-3.5kt), but can reach speeds of 18-24km/h (10-13kt). Eden’s whale has been clocked at 3.9 to 5.2km/h (2.1-2.8kt) while cruising. It surfaces about every minute to take a breath. They are both, however, quicker and more erratic at the surface than other rorquals. These very active lunge feeders are often seen to change direction abruptly when going after mobile prey. Eden’s whales are inquisitive, and may suddenly appear by boats.

Bryde’s whales are known to perform a partial, almost vertical breach. This behaviour is often repeated two or three times. They will breathe 4-7 times before diving. The usual dive duration is 2-5min, but some dives can take up to 20min. Both whales body and tailstocks are sharply arched when diving, though the flukes are not displayed.

A typical Eden’s whale dive sequence commences with the rostrum breaking the surface at a slight angle, followed immediately by the blow. The head then drops to a shallower angle as most of the length of the back, including the dorsal fin, appears. In diving, the flukes are not shown; however there is a pronounced arching of the back.

Bryde’s whale is the only baleen whale that breeds year-round rather than seasonally. Eden’s whale breeding behaviour is not well understood.

Group Size: generally solitary or paired; occasional aggregations of up to twelve.

Associates: Bryde’s whales may be found with blue whales, marlins and yellowfin tuna in feeding areas.

Diet: primarily small schooling fish (anchovies); also schooling crustaceans.

Dive Depth: 300m (max.)

Blow: Bryde’s whale has a narrow single ‘cloud’, 3-4m high and the Eden’s whale blow is also vertical but 1-2m high, often invisible at a distance.