© naturepl.com / Sue Flood / WWF


Belugas are extremely sociable mammals that live, hunt and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales.

Beluga facts

  • scientific name
    Delphinapterus leucas
  • weight
    700-1600 kg
  • length
    2.6 to 4.5 m
  • status
    Least concern (IUCN)

Threats to belugas

Coastal development
While beluga whales are not considered an endangered species, the loss of habitat, as humans build on and along coastlines, puts the beluga at risk.
Toxics and pollution
Belugas have been found to contain elevated concentrations of organic pollutants.

Beluga facts

Where do belugas live?

Most populations of beluga migrate. In autumn, they move south as the ice forms in the Arctic. In spring, they return to their northern feeding areas when the ice breaks up In summer, they are often found near river mouths, and sometimes even venture up river. One beluga in Alaska was spotted 1000km inland, swimming up the Yukon River. However, a few populations do not follow this migratory pattern, including those in the Cook Inlet, Alaska and the St. Lawrence estuary in Canada.

What do belugas eat?

Salmon, capelin, herring, shrimp, arctic cod, flounder, crabs and molluscs. They feed in open water (pelagic) and bottom (benthic) habitats, in both shallow and deepwater areas. Belugas have been recorded diving to more than 350 metres to feed.

How long do belugas live?

Tooth sectioning studies show that beluga whales typically live 30 to 35 years. Belugas can become trapped by freezing ice and starve or suffocate. Polar bears hunt belugas, especially if the whale is trapped in a small "lead" or open water.

How do belugas communicate?

Their bulbous forehead, called a "melon", is flexible and capable of changing shape. This allows them to make different facial expressions and produce a series of chirps, clicks, whistles and squeals, which give the beluga its other name, "the canary of the sea." These songs are probably used to communicate with other beluga and to help them find food through echolocation.

How we work

A quieter ocean for Arctic whales

Whales depend on sound to survive. WWF is working to limit sound pollution in Arctic waters by making parts of the ocean important for whales off limits to particularly loud industrial activities.

Reducing shipping impacts in Greenland

Increasing demand for Greenlandic resources means ship traffic is likely to grow significantly over the next few decades. WWF advises on the risks and engages communities and governments in discussions about best practices for shipping and marine spatial planning.

Tools for mariners

WWF has created maps and posters for Canadian ships in the Arctic to help mariners identify and avoid marine mammals.


The Circle 01.2022
The Circle 01.2022
17 January 2022
The Circle 03.19
The Circle 03.19
15 October 2019
Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas
Canada’s Arctic Marine Atlas
17 September 2018
The Circle 03.18
The Circle 03.18
17 July 2018
Greenland Mariners' Guide
Greenland Mariners' Guide
27 September 2017
Marine mammals of Hudson Strait
Marine mammals of Hudson Strait
25 May 2017
See all 11 publications

Meet the team


Senior Advisor, Arctic and marine


Senior specialist, Arctic species & ecosystems

WWF Arctic Coordinating Team

Senior Specialist, Arctic species