Short-finned pilot whales in Hawai‘i

A short-finned pilot whale moving rapidly at the surface. Photo by Robin W. Baird

In our sample of over 2,000 sightings of odontocetes in Hawaiian waters since 2000, short-finned pilot whales are the most frequently encountered species, representing almost 25% of all odontocete encounters. We have been studying various aspects of the behavior and ecology of short-finned pilot whales in Hawai‘i, photo-identifying individuals in every group encountered (collecting over 80,000 photos), collecting biopsy samples being used for stock structure, pollutant, and trophic ecology studies (over 170 samples), and studying their diving behavior and movement patterns.

Female and newborn short-finned pilot whale, July 13, 2008. Photo by Daniel Webster. This newborn is probably less than 12 hours old, since the dorsal fin is just starting to straighten.

Short-finned pilot whale with healed scar on head, July 13, 2008. Photo by Daniel Webster.

Spyhopping pilot whale with remoras, April 24, 2008. Photo by Robin Baird.

Spyhopping pilot whale with wound from cookie-cutter shark, April 25, 2008. Photo by Dan McSweeney.

Daniel Webster attempting to deploy suction-cup attached time-depth recorder/Fastloc GPS tag on a pilot whale. Photo by Robin Baird.

Pilot whale with time-depth recorder/Fastloc GPS tag, April 28. Photo by Greg Schorr.

Short-finned pilot whales off Kaua‘i, June 26, 2008. Photo by Annie Douglas

Greg Schorr collecting samples from an exhalation of a pilot whale, May 14, 2008. Photo by Robin Baird.

Short-finned pilot whale spyhopping, July 8, 2008. Photo by Daniel Webster.

Daniel Webster deploying a suction-cup attached Bioacoustic probe on a short-finned pilot whale, July 25, 2008. Photo by Robin Baird. This tag contains a hydrophone to record sounds around the whale as well as information on depth and underwater movements (using a 2-axis accelerometer). On July 25th we deployed two of these tags, with one remaining attached approximately four hours and the other remaining attached through the night. Both tags were recovered by researchers on the NOAA R/V Oscar Elton Sette.

Adult male short-finned pilot whale with suction-cup attached Bioacoustic probe, July 25, 2008. Photo by Daniel Webster.

Below are a number of references on short-finned pilot whales

  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, J.M. Aschettino, G.S. Schorr and D.J. McSweeney. 2013. Odontocete cetaceans around the main Hawaiian Islands: habitat use and relative abundance from small-boat sighting surveys. Aquatic Mammals 39:253-269. Download PDF copy
  • Mahaffy, S.D. 2012. Site fidelity, associations and long-term bonds of short-finned pilot whales off the island of Hawai'i. M.Sc. Thesis, Portland State University. 151 pp. Download PDF copy
  • Van Cise, A.M., R.W. Baird, S. Baumann-Pickering, S. Rankin, and J. Barlow. 2012. Characterization of short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) clicks and calls near the Hawaiian Islands. Poster presented at the 13th International Conference of the American Cetacean Society, November 9-11, 2012, San Diego, CA. Download PDF copy
  • Andrews, R.D., G.S. Schorr, R.W. Baird, D.L. Webster, D.J. McSweeney and M.B. Hanson. 2011. New satellite-linked depth-recording LIMPET tags permit monitoring for weeks to months and reveal consistent deep nighttime feeding behavior of short-finned pilot whales in Hawai'i. Poster presented at the Fourth International Science Symposium on Bio-logging, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, March 14-18, 2011. Download PDF copy
  • Sakai, M., K. Aoki, K. Sato, M. Amano, R.W. Baird, D.L. Webster, G.S. Schorr and N. Miyazaki. 2011. Swim speed and acceleration measurements of short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) in Hawai‘i. Mammal Study 36:55-59. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., G.S. Schorr, D.L. Webster, D.J. McSweeney, M.B. Hanson, and R.D. Andrews. 2008. Multi-species cetacean satellite tagging to examine movements in relation to the 2008 Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise. A quick look report on the results of tagging efforts undertaken under Order No. D1000115 from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., G.S. Schorr, D.L. Webster, S.D. Mahaffy, A.B. Douglas, A.M. Gorgone, and D.J. McSweeney. 2006. A survey for odontocete cetaceans off Kaua'i and Ni'ihau, Hawai'i, during October and November 2005: evidence for population structure and site fidelity. Report to Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, under Order No. AB133F05SE5197 with additional support from the Marine Mammal Commission and Dolphin Quest. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., D.J. McSweeney, M.R. Heithaus and G.J. Marshall. 2003. Short-finned pilot whale diving behavior: deep feeders and day-time socialites. In Abstracts of the 15th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Greensboro, NC, December 2003.Download PDF copy
  • Chivers, S.J., R.G. LeDuc and R.W. Baird. 2003. Hawaiian island populations of false killer whales and short-finned pilot whales revealed by genetic analyses. In Abstracts of the 15th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Greensboro, NC, December 2003. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., and P.J. Stacey. 1993. Sightings, strandings and incidental catches of short-finned pilot whales, Globicephala macrorhynchus, off the British Columbia coast. Reports of the International Whaling Commission Special Issue 14:475-479. Download PDF copy
  • Stacey, P.J., and R.W. Baird. 1993. Status of the short-finned pilot whale, Globicephala macrorhynchus, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 107:481-489. Download PDF copy
  • Shane, S.H., and D. McSweeney. 1990. Using photo-identification to study pilot whale social organization. Reports of the International Whaling Commission Special Issue 12: 259-263. Download PDF copy