The round knob on belugas’ faces is called a “melon,” and it appears to have some role in their vocalizations. Belugas are known for being quite talkative, and scientists have identified at least 11 different sounds made by belugas, including whistles, squeals, clucks, mews, chirps, trills and bell-like tones. When belugas vocalize, their melons move wiggle perceptibly. Belugas breed in March or April, and are pregnant for almost 15 months. A calf is nursed by its mother for about two years. Belugas can live to be about 40 years old, though they have to watch out for their natural enemies, polar bears and killer whales.
Where to find them
Belugas range widely in arctic and subarctic waters and are often the most important small cetacean to northern coastal peoples. They are easily recognizable – adults are bright white and have a large knobby hump on their faces.
When to come
Summer is the best time to see belugas – they are often hidden under the ice of frozen northern ocean waters during the winter. In the summer, though, they are particularly easy to spot in certain coastal areas because they shed their skin and use the gravel bottoms of shallow coastal waters to help scratch off the dead skin layer.