Cetaceans in Madeira - dolphins and whales

Common Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus

The location of the Archipelago of Madeira in the North Atlantic ocean is ideal for watching some cetaceans passing by on their migratory routes.

The only species present during all year on the Exclusive Economic Zone of the archipelagos of Madeira and Azores are the Sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus. This species has circular migratory movements through the tropical and subtropical waters for females and immatures while males have pendulum movements that can reach the polar zones. It is thought that the individuals that occur in Madeira and the Azores belong to the same population.

The Sperm whale is considered a vulnerable species to Portugal as its population has reduced considerably for about 70 years (3 generations), until the early 80's, due to the intense hunting activity, which nowadays is completely forbidden.

The following list are the whales and dolphins that have been recorded in Madeira and so might be seen during a bird, whale and dolphin watching trip in Madeira sea and the most probable season to see them, based on frequency of observations:

Bryde's whale Balaenoptera edeni

Common species to observe in Madeira:

Bryde's Whale Balaenoptera edeni - April to October

Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus- All year but mainly from March to September

Short-finned Pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus - All year but mainly November to April

Common Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus - All year but greater number from Mars to October

Short-beaked Common dolphin Delphinus delphis - December to May

Atlantic Spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis - All year but mostly from Mars to November

Not so common species in Madeira:

Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus - March to October

Sei whale Balaenoptera borealis - May to September

Common Minke whale Balaenoptera acustorostrata - June to August

Cuvier's Beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris - May to July

Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus - June to October

Striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba - February to May and July to September

Rough Toothed dolphin Steno bredanensis - July to September

Atlantic Spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis

Rare species in Madeira archipelago:

Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus

Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae

North Atlantic Right whale Eubalaena glacialis

Pygmy Sperm whale Kogia breviceps

Killer whale Orcinus orca

False Killer whale Pseudorca crassidens

Pygmy Killer whale Feresa attenuata

Fraser's dolphin Lagenodelphis hosei

Blainville's Beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris

Sowerby's Beaked whale Mesoplodon bidens

Gervais Beaked whale Mesoplodon europaeus

If you wish, you may print the Madeira Sea Mammals Checklist. Just click on it!

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