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Melon Head Whales

They are rare and we have only seen them on our Niihau boat tour. Widespread throughout the world’s tropical waters, they’re not well studied or indeed even frequently seen by humans due to a preference for deep water. Consider yourself lucky to see this reclusive creature!


The Melon-headed Whale has a body shape somewhat like a torpedo with a rounded, cone-shaped head giving the animal its common name. The body is more or less uniformly light grey except for a dark grey face – sometimes called the “mask”. The flippers are long and pointed. The dorsal fin is tall with a pointed tip – reminiscent of its cousin the Orca.

This whale is capable of swimming very quickly, particularly when startled. When doing so it often makes short low jumps clear of the sea surface, causing lots of splash. Melon-heads usually gather in large numbers (at least 100 and possible as many as 1000 on rare occasions) and unfortunately, will sometimes strand together.

The Melon-head weighs about 10-15 kilograms (22-33 lb) at birth and is 1 meter (3 ft) long. An adult grows up to 3 meters (10 ft) long and weighs in excess of 200 kilograms (440 lb). The whales’ life span is at least 20 years and probably more than 30 years for females.

They primarily feed upon squid.

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