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Minke whale - Droimeiteach beag - Morfil pigfain - Balaenoptera acutorostrata 

Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) are the smallest whale species in Irish waters, growing between 8.5 and 10m long. They have a dark grey-black back and a white underside, with a pointed head. About 2/3rds down their back, they have a sickle shaped dorsal fin. But the most distinguishable feature are white bands around their pectoral fins or flippers, which can be seen through the water on closer encounters. While they seldom have a visible blow, their breath can sometimes be smelled, explaining their nickname ‘stinky minke’. 

Surfacing minke whale, without any visible blow  – Christina Winkler 
Ecology, social dynamics and seasonality

Minke whales are baleen whales. Instead of teeth, they have baleen plates that they use to filter prey out of the water. Minke whales in Irish waters eat sandeel, sprat and herring, but also krill, capelin, mackerel and cod outside of Irish waters. Minke whales are most frequently seen singly, but can occasionally appear in pairs or small groups. Like other baleen whales, minkes are migratory. Unlike some cetacean species however, their migration is less predictable. We don’t know exactly where they go to feed in summer or breed in winter. They occur in Irish waters from spring to winter, with highest densities in the SW of Ireland from April to July. Minke whales can dive for over 15 minutes. Just before a long dive, they will arch their backs clearly out of the water. 

Dark back and sickle shaped dorsal fin of a minke whale – Christina Winkler 
Minke whales along the Iveragh coast

Off the Iveragh coast, minkes have been reported in depths of around 70m and further offshore, moving further inshore in spring. Bray Head as well as St. Finan’s Bay, Derrynane Bay and Kenmare River are good locations to spot minke whales, as well as around Lemon Rock when you are out on a boat. Their Irish name (Droimeiteach beag) actually translates very well in what to expect to see when on look out for these animals: a small drumlin.

Did you know…

… you can become a citizen scientist yourself and help identify where on Iveragh and Llŷn whales, dolphins and porpoises can be seen?

Iveragh Peninsula

The LIVE Project are partnering with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) to record sightings of cetaceans along the Iveragh coast. Simply go to the IWDG website to log your sighting, and mention the LIVE Project after your name eg Suzie Smith LIVE Project

Download our handy guide here:

Download PDF • 169KB

Pen Llŷn

For sightings on Llŷn, a form can be filled out through the Sea Watch Foundation, strandings are reported through the CSIP, and for live strandings please contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765546.

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