White-beaked dolphin

© (c)Martin Kitching/www.northernexperienceimages.co.uk

 Lagenorhynchus albirostris


Size: 2 - 3 m 

Key feature: Small beak – not always white!

White-beaked dolphins are relatively large stocky dolphins with a distinct colouring. They have a small obvious beak but it’s not always white. They have white underbellies as far back as the tail stock and a tall dorsal fin. Their most useful identification feature is the white and pale grey markings on their flanks (sides), the most distinctive being a pale grey area theat extends from the dorsal fin towards the tail stock, giving the impression of a 'saddle patch'. 


White-beaked dolphins are fast powerful swimmers. They are very active and playful, often breaching and tail slapping. They often approach boats, following them for distances whilst riding in the bow waves. They usually travel in groups of up to 50 individuals, but ORCA surveys have observed pods of 80-100 individuals within the North Sea.


White-beaked dolphins are distributed throughout the North Atlantic. They are typically found in cool temperate and sub-arctic waters preferring shelf waters around the Scottish coast, and in the North Sea. They have been seen on ORCA survey trips from Harwich to Esbjerg and North Shields (Newcastle) to Ijmuiden (Amsterdam).

ORCA's data from 2006-2015 suggests a seasonal occurrence of white-beaked dolphins within the North Sea, with encounters peaking in July and being seen more commonly inshore than offshore. To find out more about this species go to page 51 of our State of Eurpean Cetaceans report.


The major threats towards white-beaked dolphins include entanglement in fishing gear, being caught as bycatch and the overfishing of their prey. They have also been hunted in the past for meat in Norway, Faroe Islands and Greenland.

To view this map full screen please click the link 'view larger map' at the top of the map. You can zoom in by using the scroll on your mouse or using the + and - buttons on the map. Click and drag the map to move it around and see different areas. The arrow on the top left of the map will bring out a legend for you. You can click on each icon on the map to find out the date, time, latitude, longitude, route, vessel, species, and group size seen for that species at that point.