What Do Beluga Whales Eat?

Beluga whales do not eat penguins. They are opportunistic feeders and primarily consume bottom-dwelling animals such as octopus, squid, crabs, snails, sandworms, and various fish species like capelin, cod, herring, smelt, and flounder. Beluga whales are native to the Arctic Ocean and adjacent waters, while penguins are found in the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore, these two species would not naturally encounter each other in the wild.

Featured Answers

No–they mostly eat fishes and crab.

Answered from Christin Keck

Few types of whales feed on penguins. Some toothed whales besides orcas include belugas, dolphins, narwhals and sperm whales.

Answered from Ajith Choudhary


As a beluga whale enthusiast, you may be curious – do beluga whales eat penguins? The simple answer is no, belugas do not eat penguins as part of their diet.

In this guide, I'll cover everything you need to know about what beluga whales eat, their feeding habits, their geographic range, penguin habitats, and more! Read on for a comprehensive look at why belugas and penguins don't interact.

Table of Contents

  • What Do Beluga Whales Eat?
  • Beluga Whale Diet
  • Beluga Whale Hunting and Feeding Habits
  • Beluga Whale Habitat and Range
  • Penguin Habitat and Range
  • Do Belugas and Penguins Interact?
  • What Animals Eat Penguins?
  • Differences Between Belugas and Other Whales
  • Conclusion

What Do Beluga Whales Eat?

Beluga whales are carnivores that feed on a variety of fish, crustaceans, and worms. Their primary prey includes:

  • Arctic cod
  • Capelin
  • Smelt
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Crabs
  • Clams
  • Snails

Belugas use their 40-50 cone-shaped teeth to grip prey and swallow it whole. They do not chew their food. Their diet is heavily focused on fish like cod, capelin, and smelt.

In one day, a hungry beluga can consume up to 10% of its own body weight in food. Given their average size of 13-20 feet and weight of 1,100-1,600 pounds, that's a lot of fish!

Researchers have identified over 62 species of fish and invertebrates that make up the beluga's varied diet. These cold water whales are well adapted to icy waters and feed primarily on the ocean floor.

Beluga Whale Diet

The beluga whale's diet consists mainly of fish that school together in large numbers, like Arctic cod, capelin, and smelt. Here's a breakdown of the beluga's favorite foods:


  • Arctic cod – Their most common prey, making up to 62% of their diet
  • Capelin – A smelly fish, up to 22% of their diet
  • Smelt – Silvery fish found in northern waters
  • Salmon – Less common, but still eaten frequently


  • Shrimp – Eat lots of northern shrimp
  • Crabs – Prey on king crabs on ocean floor


  • Squid
  • Octopus


  • Polychaete worms found on the seafloor


  • Clams
  • Snails

Belugas are constantly on the hunt for schools of fish and swarming crustaceans to meet their substantial daily caloric requirement. Their flexible diet allows them to adapt to changing prey availability in the Arctic.

Beluga Whale Hunting and Feeding Habits

Belugas have unique adaptations that allow them to thrive as hunters in frigid, icy waters. Here's how they catch their food:

  • Use echolocation to find prey – Belugas produce high-frequency clicks to locate schools of fish under sea ice.
  • Stun prey with melons – They can alter the shape of melons in their foreheads to emit strong echolocation beams that stun and immobilize fish.
  • Flexible neck – Their flexible necks allow them to hunt sideways and find prey in tight spaces.
  • Strong tail fins – Powerful tail fins propel them towards prey at high speeds.
  • 40-50 pointy teeth – Their cone-shaped teeth grip slippery fish and swallow them whole.
  • Forage on seafloor – They dive and hunt along the ocean bottom, where many fish and inverts live.
  • cooperative hunting – Groups work together to herd fish into bait balls for easy feeding.

Belugas are highly social and often cooperative hunters, working in groups to trap fish together. By using their biological tools and social nature, belugas have perfected the art of hunting in Arctic waters.

Beluga Whale Habitat and Range

Beluga whales live solely in the Arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. Their habitat range includes:

  • Arctic Ocean – north of Canada, Alaska, Russia
  • Hudson Bay, James Bay, Beaufort Sea – northern Canada
  • Cook Inlet – southern Alaska

Within their northern domain, belugas migrate seasonally to follow moving ice floes and search for prey. Summering grounds closer to river estuaries and coastlines provide food-rich, warmer waters.

Their chilly northern habitat never overlaps with the southern hemisphere habitats of penguins. Belugas and penguins could never interact due to their distinct ranges confined to opposite polar regions.

Penguin Habitat and Range

In contrast to belugas, penguins live exclusively in the southern hemisphere. They inhabit the coasts and islands of cooler climates like:

  • Antarctica – Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, and other penguins
  • New Zealand – Yellow-eyed, Erect-crested, Little Blue
  • Australia – Little penguins, sometimes called fairy penguins
  • South Africa – African penguin
  • South America – Magellanic, Humboldt penguins

There are around 20 species of penguins that call the southern hemisphere home. They forage in the rich ocean waters of these southern coasts, islands, and freezing Antarctic regions.

Not a single penguin species exists in the Arctic or northern waters where belugas reside. The beluga whale's polar distribution has no overlap with penguin environments.

Do Belugas and Penguins Interact?

Due to their completely separated habitats and ranges, beluga whales and penguins never directly interact or cross paths in the wild.

Belugas live in the northern hemisphere's Arctic and subarctic oceans, while penguins inhabit southern hemisphere islands and coasts. There is no geographic overlap between the two species.

The southern range limit for beluga whales is around 40° north latitude, well north of penguin habitats. And the northern range extent for penguins stops around the equator, well shy of beluga waters.

With penguins congregating near Antarctica and belugas summering in Canada, Alaska, or Russia, these two species live in different polar worlds. There is virtually no chance for interaction or commingling of their territories.

So while both are highly cold-adapted marine species, belugas and penguins stick to their separate hemispheres and do not compete for food resources. Their ranges remain distinct and isolated from each other.

What Animals Eat Penguins?

Very few whale species prey on penguins as part of their diet. The only whales known to actively hunt and consume penguins are certain populations of orcas or killer whales.

Type C and D orcas in Antarctica are the primary penguin predators. However, penguins only make up a small fraction – less than 5% – of an orca's overall diet.

Orcas are found worldwide and feed on anything from fish and squid to seals, sea lions, and occasionally penguins. But they are an exception among whale species regarding penguin consumption.

Most whales subsist on krill, small fish, and invertebrates. The diverse diet and wide range of orcas allows them to sometimes prey on penguins when ranges overlap.

But this behavior has never been observed in beluga whales that feed exclusively on Arctic fish and invertebrate species absent from penguin habitats.

Differences Between Belugas and Other Whales

Here’s a quick comparison of belugas vs. other whales:

Beluga WhaleOrcaSperm Whale
Arctic/SubarcticAll oceansDeeper, offshore waters
Fish, invertebratesFish, mammals, penguinsSquid, fish, rays
40-50 cone teethLarge powerful jawsSquid-eating teeth
Northern hemisphere onlyGlobal rangeWorldwide deep waters

As this table shows, belugas differ greatly from other whales in their habitat, diet, dentition, and range:

  • Belugas only inhabit northern polar waters, unlike global orcas and sperm whales.
  • Belugas eat Arctic fish and inverts, while orcas eat mammals like seals, penguins, and sperm whales eat giant squid.
  • Only orcas actively hunt warm-blooded prey like penguins.
  • Belugas' teeth are small and useful just for gripping fish, unlike the large powerful jaws of orcas.

So belugas have a very specific ecological niche focused on northern fish prey that precludes penguin predation seen in some other whale species.


In summary, beluga whales do not eat penguins nor interact with them in the wild. A few key facts:

  • Beluga habitat and range is limited to the Arctic and subarctic northern hemisphere.
  • Penguins live exclusively in the southern hemisphere’s islands and coasts.
  • Belugas and penguins inhabit opposite polar realms with no overlap.
  • Beluga diet consists of northern fish species, not warm-blooded prey.
  • Only orcas are known to actively hunt and eat some penguin species.

So while both belugas and penguins thrive in cold waters, their geographic separation in opposite hemispheres means they never cross paths or compete for food resources. Belugas simply have no access to penguins to prey upon. Their ecology is finely tuned to the fish and invertebrates of the far north.

I hope this guide gave you a detailed overview explaining why beluga whales don't eat penguins. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Similar Posts