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Bowhead Whale

Bowhead whales are the only whales to live exclusively in the Arctic. They get their names from their large upper jaw, which has a distinct curved shape, like a bow. Bowhead whales eat krill and other small fish and invertebrates.

Bowhead Whale

Fun Facts

  • Bowhead whales are baleen whales. Inside their upper jaw is a 13-foot long fringed ridge. As they swim, bowheads swallow huge gulps of water and krill. The water filters out through the baleen, but the krill is trapped.
  • Bowhead whales have a huge head and two blowholes. They don’t have a dorsal fin (the fin on the top of the body) because they spend so much time swimming under ice. The dorsal fin would just get in the way.
  • These whales live in small pods, usually with just two or three whales.
  • Mother bowhead whales typically have one baby every three or four years. They nurse their babies for one year.
  • Bowhead whales do not reach adulthood until they’re 25 years old.
  • These whales live in some of the harshest conditions on earth. They spend months in the dark, under ice where food and oxygen is limited. They’ve learned to compensate though. They use their huge heads to ram through ice to get air. They also use clicks and calls to communicate with each other and find food.


  1. Baleen: fringed ridges in the whales mouth used to filter food and made from the same material as our fingernails
  2. Krill: shrimp-like invertebrate
  3. Invertebrate: an animal lacking a backbone

Questions and Answers

Question: How do bowhead whales survive in the Arctic?

Answer: Bowhead whales grow and move very slowly, which conserves energy. They have the lowest body temperature of any whale. They also have a 2-foot layer of blubber and very thick skin.

Learn More

Watch a video about the bowhead whale.

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Whale Facts for Kids Video
Facts About Whales for Kids Video
Whales Facts for Kids Video