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18 whales you can spot in Tenerife!

If you're a whale enthusiast, you've come to the right place. With approximately 30 species of whales, the Canary Islands boast the highest cetacean biodiversity in Macaronesia. Due to their unique geographical location, both tropical and colder latitude species converge in this archipelago. Moreover, Tenerife is home to at least 5 resident whale species that can be observed year-round.

The Blue Whale:

The Blue Whale

Rare and awe-inspiring, the Blue Whale is a majestic presence in the Canaries. Though sightings are limited, the sheer size and global distribution of this species make every encounter a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With males averaging 25 meters and females reaching up to 34 meters, these colossal creatures weigh between 80 and 130 tons. Feeding primarily on planktonic crustaceans, the Blue Whale's presence is a testament to the vastness and wonder of the ocean.

The Fin Whale:

The Fin Whale

While rare, the Fin Whale finds the Canaries to be a potential area for feeding and breeding. Adult specimens have been spotted in different parts of the archipelago, and observations of multiple individuals feeding off Lanzarote have been recorded. With males averaging 21 meters and females reaching up to 26.8 meters, these whales weigh between 40 and 50 tons. As voracious plankton and fish eaters, they traverse the global oceans in typical cold-water regions.

The Sei Whale:

The Sei Whale

In the Canaries, the Sei Whale appears sparsely abundant, with occasional sightings and strandings during the winter months. These whales can reach sizes of up to 16 meters and weigh around 30 tons. Their unpredictable migratory movements make each encounter a thrilling and unpredictable experience.

The Bryde's whale:

The Breyde's Whale

As the most frequent species among the whales in the Canary Islands, the Bryde's Whale delights in the archipelago's tropical waters. Feeding primarily in spring and summer when small pelagic fish are abundant, these whales can often be observed with their calves. With males averaging 12.9 meters and females reaching up to 14.6 meters, they weigh around 12 tons. Their tropical distribution and known presence of resident individuals make them a special sight to behold.

The Minke Whale:

The Minke Whale

While rare in the Canaries, there have been recorded strandings in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote. With average sizes ranging from 7 to 9.8 meters, these whales weigh between 5 and 10 tons. Their fundamentally fish-based diet and preference for temperate-cold zones contribute to their elusive nature.

The Humpbackwhale:

Occasional visitors, Humpback Whales pass through the Canary Islands on their migratory routes between breeding areas in the Cape Verde Islands and feeding areas in northern Europe. With males averaging 14 meters and females reaching up to 19 meters, these whales weigh approximately 36 tons. Their acrobatic displays and characteristic family groups make encounters with them truly unforgettable.

The North Atlantic Right Whale:

The North Atlantic Right Whale

A rarity in the Canaries, sightings of the North Atlantic Right Whale have been limited to a few isolated occurrences. With average sizes of 15 meters for males and up to 18 meters for females, these whales weigh between 80 and 100 tons. Their plankton and fish-based diet, coupled with their preference for cold waters, contributes to their solitary nature.

Sperm Whale:

The Sperm Whale

Resident in these waters, the awe-inspiring sperm whale commands attention wherever it roams. With males averaging 15 meters in length (reaching an impressive maximum of 20 meters) and females measuring around 11 meters (up to 17 meters), these giants can weigh between 40 and 50 tons, with some individuals reaching a staggering 178 tons! Feeding primarily on deep-sea squid, these magnificent creatures boast a global distribution. In the Canaries, their social structure revolves around matrilineal groups consisting of females and their offspring, while adult males tend to be solitary.

Pigmy Sperm Whale:

The pygmy sperm whale, a species known for its elusive nature, remains challenging to spot and identify. However, occasional strandings indicate their presence and suggest a certain level of abundance. Another related species, the dwarf sperm whale (Kogia simus), has also been sporadically observed in the waters around Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Fuerteventura. With an average size exceeding 4 meters and weighing less than 300 kilograms, these mysterious creatures feed on cephalopods and mesopelagic fish. Their distribution is primarily tropical, and their social structure remains largely unknown.

Calf Horn Whale:

The waters of El Hierro hold a secret—Cuvier's beaked whales have found their sanctuary there. Discovered in 2004, these majestic creatures revealed a residency pattern, with an estimated population of 47 individuals by 2008. These beaked whales boast an average size of around 6 meters, weighing between 2 and 3 tons. Like their counterparts, their diet primarily consists of deep-sea squid. While they can be found globally, their social structure remains a mystery.

Cuvier ́s beaked whale:

The waters of El Hierro hold a secret—Cuvier's beaked whales have found their sanctuary there. Discovered in 2004, these majestic creatures revealed a residency pattern, with an estimated population of 47 individuals by 2008. These beaked whales boast an average size of around 6 meters, weighing between 2 and 3 tons. Like their counterparts, their diet primarily consists of deep-sea squid. While they can be found globally, their social structure remains a mystery.

Blainville ́s beaked whale

Blainville's Whale

Similar to Cuvier's beaked whales, Blainville's beaked whales also exhibit a residency pattern in the waters surrounding El Hierro. By 2008, an estimated population of 64 individuals was recorded. These whales, measuring 4 to 5 meters in length and weighing approximately 1 ton, specialize in deep-sea squid as their main source of sustenance. Their preferred distribution includes tropical waters, and they display a social structure of 3 to 7 individuals.

Zifio de Gervais (Mesoplodon europeus)

Gervais Beaked Whale

The Zifio de Gervais, scientifically known as Mesoplodon europeus, makes sporadic appearances on the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. While sightings of this species are infrequent, strandings have mainly occurred in the eastern islands and Tenerife. These whales have an average size of 4 to 5 meters and feed on cephalopods and mesopelagic fishes. Their distribution spans the temperate-tropical Atlantic, although specific details about their social structure remain unknown, adding an air of mystery to their existence.

True's beaked Whale (Mesoplodon mirus)

True Beaked Whale

Encounters with True's beaked whales, scientifically referred to as Mesoplodon mirus, are exceptionally rare. Only two sightings have been reported on the northeast coast of Tenerife and Gran Canaria, accompanied by instances of strandings. Precise information regarding their average size, diet, and distribution is still being researched, making True's beaked whale a species shrouded in mystery. Their distribution is fragmented, and their social structure has yet to be fully understood.

Sowerby ́s beaked whale(Mesoplodon bidens)

Sowerby's beaked whale, scientifically known as Mesoplodon bidens, is an uncommon sight in the Canary Islands. The recorded strandings of this species include one in Lanzarote on March 31, 1984, specifically at Muelle de los Marmoles, Arrecife, and another stranding in El Hierro. Detailed information regarding their average size, diet, distribution, and social structure is still limited. Sowerby's beaked whales primarily inhabit the North Atlantic region, adding to the intrigue surrounding their presence in the Canary Islands.

Orca (Orcinus orca) Killer whale

Orca Killer Whale.

While sightings of orcas in the Canary Islands are sporadic, they are a true spectacle to behold. Typically observed during the summer months, these magnificent creatures showcase a matrilineal social structure. Male orcas can reach a size of approximately 8.2 meters (around 4,000 kilograms), while females measure about 7 meters (around 3,000 kilograms). Orcas display a diverse feeding behavior depending on their ecotype and can be found distributed globally.

False killer whale (Pseudoorca crassident)

False Killer Whale

The false killer whale, known for its occasional appearances in the Canary Islands during the winter and spring seasons, often coincides with the presence of tunas. These magnificent creatures showcase a size of approximately 6 meters for males (weighing around 1,360 kilograms) and around 5 meters for females. They feed on fish and cephalopods, thriving in temperate-warm waters. False killer whales exhibit a gregarious social structure, forming groups of 10 to 20 individuals. Their mass sweeps suggest strong social bonds within their communities.

Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

The Pilot Whale

While short-finned pilot whale sightings can be observed on all the Canary Islands, it is noteworthy to mention the presence of a resident population along the coasts of southwest Tenerife, with an estimated range of 391 individuals (ranging from 325 to 470 individuals), as well as in Anaga, where approximately 98 individuals (ranging from 75 to 156 individuals) reside. These charismatic whales exhibit a pronounced sexual dimorphism, with males being larger than females, sometimes even doubling their weight. On average, males measure 4 to 5 meters in length (weighing around 1,500 kilograms), while females measure 3 to 4 meters (weighing approximately 1,000 kilograms). Short-finned pilot whales have a generalist feeding behavior, and their distribution primarily encompasses tropical waters. They form social groups of 10 to 15 individuals, following a matrilineal structure.

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