Wildlife Sightings Blog
Dolphin watching on the Isle of Mull
seen around the Hebrides
A third of all cetacean
species have been recorded around the Hebrides. The most common
species have been described in further detail on this site,
however below is some further information in case you are
especially lucky and see one of these rarer species.
Northern Bottlenose Whale –
A beaked whale, up to 9.8
metres in length
Dark grey back, with a
distinctive forehead (melon) and beak and a small curved fin.
A deep water specialist,
this species primarily feeds on squid
Infrequent visitors, can be
confused with Minke Whales, due to the size and shape of the
dorsal fin, but have a visible blow unlike Minke Whales and a
very different head shape
Humpback Whale –
A baleen whale, up to 17
Dark back, with a
distinctive hump and small dorsal fin, white underside and long
white pectoral fins.
Feed mainly on plankton, Cod
Encountered around the
Hebrides on migration from their tropical breeding grounds in
Africa to summer feeding grounds around Norway and Iceland.
Visible, bushy blow up to 4
Fin Whale –
A baleen whale and at up to
27 metres in length the second largest animal on the planet
Dark grey back and pale
underneath, small fin located far along the back.
Unusual in the fact that
they have a black left-hand lower jaw and the right hand side is
They have a tall columnar
Feed on a range of fish
species and krill.
Little is known about their
migration; however the occasional sightings around the Hebrides
tend to occur in the summer months. This species prefers coastal
and inshore waters for feeding and there is a good population off
the coast of Ireland, which can be seen from June through to
December, with the highest sightings rate being in November and
Sperm Whale –
Largest of the toothed
whales, males to 18 metres and females to 11 metres.
Dark grey. Brown back, no
actual dorsal fin, but a triangular shaped hump on the back
Can dive to depths of 2500
metres to feed on a range of squid species
They will spend up to 2
hours underwater after which they will usually spend time
logging at the surface to recover
One blowhole on the left
hand side, which produces a bushy, forward angled blow.
White-beaked Dolphin -
Robust dolphin up to 3.1
Limited range of temperate
and sub-arctic waters of North Atlantic
Tall dark, falcate dorsal
fin, short beak that is almost entirely white, dark grey back
with paler patches behind the dorsal fin and along the sides
Feed on fish, squid and
Sightings have declined over
the past few years as Common Dolphin sightings have increased; it
may be because the 2 species compete for food.
Atlantic White-sided Dolphin -
A robust species, between
2.4 and 2.8 metres.
A narrow distribution range
inhabiting the cool temperate and sub-arctic waters of the North
Distinctive looking species,
with a dark grey back and dorsal fin, pale grey side stripe from
the eye to the tail, with a white stripe in the middle of the
flank and a yellow patch near the tail
More commonly found around
the continental shelf, west of the Outer Hebrides -
however they will come into more coastal areas in the summer
Very acrobatic and can be
seen leaping clear of the water, they tend to bow ride less than
some other species
Herring, Cod and Squid are
their main prey, but they will also feed on a range of other
species including shrimp, mackerel and sandeels.
These species are the ones
that whilst not common have been seen on a number of occasions,
the list below details sightings that are extremely rare within
Sei Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale, Blue Whale, Pygmy Sperm
Whale, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, Sowerby’s Beaked Whale, Narwhal,
Beluga, False Killer Whale, Long Finned Pilot Whale, Striped
Dolphin and Fraser’s Dolphin.
Many thanks to the Irish Whale
and Dolphin Group for some of the photographs on this page.
for more info.