Short-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)



Short-finned pilot whales have an odd shape (compared to most of their closest cetacean relatives). They have square shaped heads with melons that bulge out a little. Their mouths curve upwards, giving them a permanent “smile,” which is especially noticeable when the animal is looking straight at you. Pilot whales have strongly curved dorsal fins and long, thin pectoral (side) flippers. Their torsos are round while their tails are more slender. Pilot whale flukes are triangular, and look similar to those of the sulfur-bottom whale [link].

Short-finned pilot whales are colored black to dark brown, with light gray “anchor patches” on their chests and a round, more circular patch on or right behind their bellies. Short-finned pilot whales also have a light “saddle patch” behind their dorsal fins, and a light stripe right above their eyes on each side of the head.

Size and Weight


Short-finned pilot whales are large members of the dolphin family, and range in size of about 12-24 feet long, with females generally being smaller than males. Not only are short-finned pilot whales sizable, they’re heavy too. Adults weigh around 2,000-6,000 pounds!



Pilot whales prefer eating squid over any other food, but they have been known to take small fish, cuttlefish, and octopus when squid is not available.

Other Resources on Short-finned Pilot Whales

Guide to Marine Mammals of the World by the National Audubon Society (book)

Whales Dolphins and Porpoises by Mark Carwardine (book) (web page) [link] (web page) [link] (web page) [link]