Beluga whales have the most varied diet of any small whale feeding on over 100 species of fish and invertebrates, and their diet changes depending on season, location, and water temperature.
Beluga whales have the most varied diet of any small whale. They are opportunistic feeders and prey upon over 100 species of fish and invertebrates throughout their range. Their diet varies with season and location, and their food intake changes with the water temperature.
Known prey of belugas include: marine fish, (Arctic cod, salmon, herring, haddock, Arctic char, flounder, smelt, sole, sculpin, skates, flatfish, and halibut,) freshwater fish, (trout, whitefish, northern pike, grayling, and tomcod,) cephalopods, (squids and octopuses,) other mollusks, (clams, mussels, and snails,) crustaceans, (shrimp and crabs,) marine worms, and even zooplankton.
Because of their expandable forestomach, belugas can process a large amount of food at once. One whale was found in the Cook Inlet with 12 adult coho salmon in its stomach, weighing a total of 28 kilograms, or 62 pounds.
Sources: (AMMPA, 2014, 2017; Balsiger, 2003; Katona, Rough, & Richardson, 1993; Kleinenberg, Yablokov, Bel’kovich, & Tarasevich, 1969; Martin, 1996; Reidenberg & Laitman, 2002)
Image: Ross G. Strachan Photography