Minke whale

Latin Balaenoptera acutorostrata
Manx Muc-varrey ny maaigyn bane


Physical Description

The Minke whale is the second smallest member of the Rorqual family. This family, part of the Baleen group of whales, also includes the largest animals on earth, the Blue and Fin whales.

Minke whales can reach 8-10 metres when fully grown. They are a smooth, streamlined animal with a sharp pointed snout and a double blow hole. Colouration is dark grey and bright white bands are present on the pectoral fins. Life span is estimated at 40-50 years. The dorsal fin is small and sickle shaped and located ¾ of the way along the back.


Minke whale (Balaenoptera sp) - dive sequence

Minke whales tend to surface slowly. Often, you will see most of their body before the dorsal fin is visible. They typically surface around 5 times to breathe before diving for up to 15 minutes at a time.  In other parts of the world they have been seen breaching clear of the water, but this is yet to be documented in Manx waters. It is rare to observe the ‘blow’ of a Minke whale, except in damp and still conditions.

Group size

Usually solitary, but can be seen in the same area as other individuals if feeding is plentiful.


Being a member of the Rorqual family, Minke whales possess hair like ‘baleen plates’ made from keratin, of which hundreds are present in each jaw. When feeding, the whale will take in huge quantities of water and food and use the hairy plates to filter out the good bits, dispelling the water and using their tongue to swallow the food.

Lunge feeding can sometimes been observed and interactions with other species such as Harbour porpoise are common when feeding upon a large school of fish.

Their diet is varied and vast; further north they would feed primarily on krill but in Manx waters they will take many different species of schooling fish, particularly herring. Minke whales are often called herring hogs by local fishermen.

 Abundance and distribution

There are in fact three known subspecies of the Common Minke whale, these are, the North Atlantic Minke whale, North Pacific Minke whale and in the Southern Hemisphere an unnamed Dwarf Minke whale.  In Manx waters we find the North Atlantic subspecies which is found between the Canadian arctic and the Caribbean sea.

Manx Waters

Minke whales are seen on the western and southern coasts between May and August but move round to the east between September and November as they follow the Herring to their spawning grounds.

Minke whales are the only known species to possess white bands on the pectoral fins

A juvenile minke whale