Scientific name

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Where does it get its name?

The minke whale scientific name translates to “winged whale, sharp snout”. However, the common name “minke” comes from the Norweigan whaler, Meincke, who mistook them for blue whales.

Whale SENSE Region Found:



Protection status


Protected throughout its range

Where to watch:

Frequently seen in coastal and inshore waters and are less common in tropical waters, preferring cooler temperatures

What to watch for:

Blow: Minke whales are often recognized in the field by surfacing snout-first, with a small and weak—but visible—bushy blow that is about 6.5 to 10 feet high

Diving: Arches back and tail stock when diving, does not show their fluke.

Body: Small, dark whale with pointed snout and white patch on pectoral flipper

Can be confused with: Humpback whales, fin whales, sei whales – But minke whales are significantly smaller and more streamlined, with relatively small flippers and more inconspicuous blows. They can also sometimes be mistaken for a single dolphin from a distance.

Behavior: Generally elusive, not very surface active


Minke whales are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet. They have been known to eat largely krill and small schooling fish (e.g., anchovies, dogfish, capelin, cod, eels, herring, mackerel, salmon, sand lance).

Mating and Calving

Minke whales reach sexual maturity at around 3 to 8 years of age. Mating and calving most likely occurs during the winter. The gestation period is 10 to 11 months. Calves are about 8 to 11.5 feet in length and weigh 700 to 1,000 pounds at birth. The calf is weaned from nursing after 4 to 6 months.

Photo: WDC

Did you know?

  • Minke is pronounced mink-ee
  • They are the smallest of the “great whales” or rorquals
  • Minke whales are considered the most abundant rorqual whale throughout the world
  • They are extremely fast swimmers, reaching speeds of 18-24 knots (16-24 mph)
  • Lifespan: Minke whales can live up to 50 years

What do minke whales sound like?

Clip provided by NOAA Fisheries

Threats to minke whales

Learn more about minke whales