Adult Beluga whales one of the smallest varieties of whale has pure white skin. The young have a much darker color that changes to white with maturity for females at age seven and males at age nine. They have no dorsal fin and have short round flippers and a deeply notched tail. They also have small eyes and a single blow hole that measures about three feet. They can be easily identified with their large round head with a protruding forehead.
Beluga Whales are largely found in the Arctic and sub arctic waters. The Beluga whales facing extinction are: St. Lawrence, Cook Inlet, and the Alaskan Beluga. There is only about three hundred Beluga's in Cook Inlet, a few in the Saint Lawrence River with a total population of about 80,000 globally.
The Beluga have teeth; however, they are designed for pulling and tearing not chewing, and they swallow their food whole. Beluga's search for food on the ocean floor, eating a large variety of fish, which includes salmon, smelt, char, whitefish, cod as well as octopus, shrimp and mussels to mention just a few. They can dive as deep as 2,000 feet, but usually found in depths of about 1,000 feet and travel in groups. They can be found out to sea or close to the shore, and can even be seen in estuarial areas where a river meets the sea in summer months to feed or give birth. They are very sociable mammals that migrate in the fall. Large groups made up of several sizes of pods go the south as the ice starts freezing solid in the Arctic. They return again in the springtime as the weather changes, and have been seen migrating with bowhead whales.
The gestation period for the Beluga Whale is fifteen months, and they usually only have one calf per pregnancy. Baby Beluga generally nurse for two years. They are very vocal creating many different sounds, which include squeaking, clanging like a bell, squawking, whistling, or clicking noises. Because of this versatility of sound, they use these noises to communicate with other Belugas while these noises sound like music to people. They are also capable of mimicking other sounds or noises they hear. Other names that have been given to the Beluga are Sea Canary, White Whale, White Porpoise, and Squid Hound.
They are the only whale that can turn its head in all directions because it has a flexible neck. Their bulbous forehead "also referred to as a melon" is also flexible allowing the Beluga to make varied facial expressions. They are dependent on the ice for both feeding and refuge from predators like the Orca Whale. Another threat these amazing animals are facing besides the climate changes is noise pollution, the shipping and industrial industry cause underwater noise that interferes with their ability to communicate, navigate, find food, care for their young and avoid predators such as people, polar bears and the killer whale.
In the wild, the Beluga can live up to fifty years, reaching almost twenty feet long, and weighting up to 3,000 pounds. However, it should be noted that like the Polar Bear the Beluga's existence is dependent on sea ice for survival.